Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (review)
by Charlie Leck

Nothing like being very up-to-the-moment with my movie reviews, ey? Well, so I’m a little late with THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, but I just watched it for the first time today. What an unbelievable movie! Not unbelievable, mind you, in the sense that it is incredible and wonderful and sensational, though it is all those things, too. The story line is just plain unbelievable – as in incredible!

So, in watching it, you just have to go with the flow and accept it as fantasy and then just enjoy the ride. I did just that today and what a pleasant two and half hours of movie viewing I had. It was sparkling cinematography work (Best Cinematography Award by 2008 Phoenix Film Critics Association) and danged good acting, too (even though Brad Pitt is pretty much Brad Pitt even when he’s playing a very old man… or was it, let me see, an extremely young old man).

This movie may confuse you at times if you don’t pay attention. And, I don’t think you’re going to like this movie if you don’t occasionally like a good love story. I am, once in a while, a sucker for a good one.

I was particularly taken by the performances of Cate Blanchett as Daisy and Julia Ormond as Caroline, though Taraji Henson in the role of Queenie was also quite brilliant. Across the board, the acting was really very outstanding. The New York Times Review of the film had these words of praise for Ms. Blanchett:

“But the movie’s emotional center of gravity — the character who struggles and changes and feels — is Daisy, played by Ms. Blanchett from impetuous ingĂ©nue to near ghost with an almost otherworldly mixture of hauteur and heat.” [The review was written by A.O. Scott]
This production is remarkably directed by David Fincher. He received an award as the Best Director from the 2008 National Board of Review.

The movie, which most of you who have seen the film understand, involves a man (or baby) who ages backwards. He is born very old and grows younger and dies as a little baby in the arms of his one-time lover and now nursemaid. I told you it was unbelievable!

Yet it is remarkably intriguing to move toward that moment where the lovers are going to meet at the center point of both the story and the universe (or their lives). Of course, as they – the lovers – go beyond that point, the man grows younger and younger and the woman older and older.

How much more complicated it would be if the couple just happened to have a child and the father might then need to look forward to passing his own off-spring as he child grows older and his kid grows younger and younger. Well, I’ll be darned if just that doesn’t happen.

For those of you who haven’t seen the film, I’m probably telling you too much. I’ll stop.

Let me, however, just mumble on a bit more about a couple of the meaningful feelings I took from the movie. First of all, I loved it from the opening scene through the closing credits and I remained captivated by it that entire time.

For me the film had a touch of Forest Gump. Like Forest, Benjamin has more adventures than any real life time could squeeze in. It’s part of the fantasy and it shouldn’t be questioned, but only enjoyed.

Somewhere in the film, I thought we would arrive at that perfect moment as she ages and he grows younger and they meet at that precise point when they pass one another. But, it doesn’t happen! The collision course is avoided.

The film, or the story, is a lot about letting go. How often we ruin things we try to possess by holding too tightly. It also asks significant questions about love and makes some remarkable statements about love and its hazards.

“We’re meant to lose the people we love,” says Daisy. “How else would we know how important they were to us?”

“You can be mad as a mad dog. You can curse the fate, but when it comes to the end… you have got to let go!”

This film, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, is not listed on the 50 best movies of the last decade that I pointed out to you a few weeks ago, but it sure is an extremely fine and good film. If you haven’t seen it, do.

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