Friday, January 16, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Review

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the story of a man who is born with all the ailments and physical attributes of an 80+ year old man and as he ages his physical demeanor grows more youthful. The story of Benjamin Button begins in 2005 in a hospital room as hurricane Katrina approaches landfall an elderly woman asks her daughter to read a diary, as the rain comes down outside the room the young woman begins to read the diary to her mother. It was 1918 and WWI had just ended, the city streets of New Orleans are alive with celebration as fireworks light up the night sky, a man rushes through the crowd to his home as his wife struggles with a difficult delivery. When I say difficult I mean she dies giving birth to a hideous looking infant, the husband rushes out into the night with the new born intent on throwing it into the river, but as luck would have it a constable sees this and chases Thomas Button through the city streets. The infant is left on the steps of a Nursing home and is discovered by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson). She takes the new born as her own and decides to care for it, naming him Benjamin. Unexpectedly Benjamin, survives but because his body is still so frail Benjamin is wheelchair bound, through his diary we learn about some of the characters he lives with in the nursing home, his only company is other elderly people, and through this interaction he learns some valuable lessons about the value of life and inevitability of death.
It's in this time that Benjamin first meets Daisy Fuller (Elle Fanning) who comes to visit her grandmother at the nursing home.
The film transitions between the present and the life of Benjamin told through the diary seamlessly and you quickly realize who the women in the hospital bed is.
I found myself feeling the many similarities to Forest Gump, this movie basically chronicles the lives of Daisy Fuller and Benjamin Button as their lives begin at opposite ends (yet the same) of the circle of life and meet at an intersection of their lives then again head off in opposite directions yet end in the place the other began at.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a magical journey through Benjamin's life as we meet very curious individuals such as Queenie, Captain Mike, Elizabeth Abbott (Tilda Swinton), and the guy who was struck by lightning seven times. The story is bittersweet and as it comes to a close you'll be hard pressed to not find a lump in your throat when an elderly Daisy is seen walking a little boy about 5 years old who is actually an elderly man suffering from dementia.
Cate Blanchett is mesmerizing as the adult Daisy Fuller and in my opinion puts in one of her finest performances to date. Elle Fanning shows that she is as gifted an actress as her older sister. Tilda Swinton puts in another terrific performance, but I have to admit Brad Pitt's performance throughout CCoBB is truly phenomenal, from the quiet inquisitiveness of a young boy watching kids playing on the street, to a young man who leaves the nest and learns about the world, to an adult who must forgive the sins of his father or the man who makes the heart wrenching decision to leave the love of his life and their child because of his situation...Brad Pitt's, acting in this role is possibly the best of his carrier.
Other than the magic of the story and characters TCCoBB also has some pretty impressive effects for Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchette's ages throughout the film. Seeing Pitt as he is today, as he might look in 30 years and what he looked like in his earlier movies like Cool World, was certainly interesting. The movie also had some beautiful sets, I especially liked the scene where Benjamin carries his ailing father to the riverside to watch the sunrise, the symbolism of that scene was beautifully understated. The film runs about two hours and thirty minutes but it is a complete story from start to finish, well worth the price of admission.