The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) (PG-13)

To say that director David Fincher's career has been eccentric would be putting it mildly. His splash into popular films began with his work "Alien³" which, although somewhat entertaining, was a complete waste of time. Then came "Se7en" and Fincher gained an enormous amount of respect from many critics and audiences alike. After that was "Fight Club" and Fincher clenched down on his popularity and hasn't given it up ever since.
Because he tends to pick grittier projects like "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"; it's extremely odd to see a picture such as "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" in the mix with Fincher's other films. It's his most bizarre and most frustrating work other than "The Game".
To be completely and totally honest, I didn't care for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" the first time that I saw it. I found it illogical and too long.
But Fincher's style is undeniable and I thought that the movie merited a second viewing. I was completely blown away by what I didn't catch the first time around...these aren't crucial plots twists; but delicacies that permeate the movie. Fincher's keen eye has found himself a true masterpiece.
The movie begins in a hospital in New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina rages outside. A woman sits on her mother's death bed and tries to wrap her mind around what is happening. She and her mother were not close and she doesn't want to miss the opportunity to say good-bye. Her mother's breathing is shallowing and her words aren't all coherent; but she manages to tell her daughter to read her a diary of a man named Benjamin Button who was born different.
We go back in time to the end of WWI, which was the day that Benjamin was born. His father rushes home to see what his wife has given birth to—instead he finds his wife dying from childbirth and his son deformed. The baby is wrinkled and its skin is sagging and weathered, it looks nothing like a normal child.
In a rage of cruelty, the man drags the baby out on the street and is about to throw it in the river and drown it when he is stopped by a policeman. A chase begins and the man ducks into an alleyway to escape the law. He drops the child on the first step he sees with eighteen dollars and quickly runs away from his son and his responsibility.
The house that the baby was deposited in front of is an old folk's home, a nursing home. Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) runs the home and picks the baby up, taking the child as a sign from God.
It's clear from the beginning that the young child, who Queenie names Benjamin, is unique. Though he is small, his bones are riddled with arthritis and his skin looks like it belongs to an old man. The doctors tell Queenie that the child won't live long; but she cares for the boy still.
As the years pass by, Benjamin slowly gets stronger and his age starts to disappear from his face—he is growing old by getting younger, perhaps a side effect of a clockmaker trying to summon his son back from the dead.
The clockmaker's story is told by the dying woman in the hospital at the beginning of the movie. He makes a clock that goes backwards to bring hope to the families who have lost children in the war. The connection between the clock and Benjamin is never clearly explained and it doesn't have to be, for the clock is just another poetic side note that Fincher manages to hit and not detract from his story.
Benjamin (Brad Pitt) grows young and he falls in love with Daisy (Cate Blanchett) who is young when he looks old and vice versa. Their story is what the movie is about—a love saga more tragic and beautiful than anything else I've seen.
Many critics scorned "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" for its horrible similarity to "Forrest Gump". Yes, the pictures are similar and even have the same writer, Eric Roth.
But "Forrest Gump" is a movie about innocence and love and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is a movie about aging and loss.
As we see the lines in Daisy's face deeper, we see them vanish from Benjamin's face.
Benjamin travels the world in his old faced youth and meets several people who will shape the person he will become.
Benjamin is indeed a curious character for he never once gets mad. The circumstances demand for a release in emotional energy; but Benjamin never blinks his eyes. Brad Pitt does a wonderfully restrained acting job in the film and earned a deserved Oscar nomination for it.
Fincher likes to shoot in the night, so the film is filled with very dark colors.
The film, because of the plight of its protagonist, gets to make wonderful observations about life, which are both true and bitter.
Roth's script has as much restraint as Benjamin does, one such scene proves it: Daisy is feeling sorry for herself and says something similar to "I hate getting old". The audience screams out for Benjamin to say in return "I hate getting young"...he never does, yet you can see it on his face.
Which is more cruel—to grow old and die with your friends; or to see your lover race in the opposite direction?
The style of the movie is unparalleled and beyond critique, the acting is flawless, and the poetry is glorious.
I find myself thinking that "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is David Fincher's finest work and his most mature.
The film's reception was mixed but it picked up an impressive thirteen Oscar nominations and won three—art direction, makeup, and special effects.
Though it might have faded now from the pop culture's mind, it remains moving and intimate.
It's exquisite and painfully full of truth.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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