The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I first saw previews for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I wasnít impressed. I found the whole idea of a man aging backwards and involved in an epic love story weird. I surely didnít want to spend nearly $10.00 to see it in a theater, but I had heard some good things about the movie. So when I saw the movie in DVD format for $3.99 a few years after its release, I figured why not check it out.
The movie begins in New Orleans with a woman named Caroline (Julia Ormond) keeping her elderly dying mother Daisy (Cate Blanchett) company during her final moments in the midst of Hurricane Katrina. Daisy asks her daughter to read to her from a diary belonging to someone named Benjamin Button that she had been meaning to read for years. As Daisy reads, we are introduced to Benjamin Button on the day of his birth in 1918. His father, Thomas (Jason Flemyng), is horrified that not his beloved wife has not only died during childbirth, but the child she has given birth to has been born with all the infirmities of an old man.
Thomas leaves the child on the steps of a nursing home and Benjamin is discovered by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) and Tizzy Weathers (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), who help run the nursing home. Tizzy is all for calling the police and handing the baby over to them, but Queenie, unable to have a child of her own and a caring woman in her own right, opts to keep Benjamin as her own. She believes that he hasnít much time to live and decides to give him as much as she can for as long as she can.
While at the nursing home, Benjamin meets a girl named Daisy, granddaughter of one of the nursing home's residents. Benjamin is instantly captivated by Daisy's charm, interest in the world and lack of fear for anything or anyone different. Throughout the years and his many journeys, one thing remains constant, Benjamin's fascination with Daisy, culminating in a doomed love affair that lasts for decades.
There are a few things that bothered me about this movie. For one, I still don't understand the relationship between the clockmaker story and Benjamin's. Sure, the clock runs backwards and Benjamin ages backwards, but why should the way the clock runs affect one boy out of millions? Or was the story of the clock only related to Benjamin in that it ran backwards? And the love story - although there is chemistry between the lead characters, there is something still strange about two people falling in love that are aging in reverse from one another. The relationship is doomed to fail from the start. I also have an issue with the way the film ended - not the symbol seen at the end, but the moments just before the symbol, when the hurricane sirens go off and the hospital is in a frenzy. We can guess what happens to Daisy, but what about Caroline?
But those pet peeves are inconsequential when you realize how much the movie has to offer - little life lessons that Benjamin learns along his journey, such as never let anyone tell you that you can achieve something you truly desire, how losing people you love allows you to realize just how important to you they really are, how you never know what life has in store for you, about enjoying doing something for how it makes you feel and not for how well you can do it, how life's tragedies have a way of reminding someone how lucky they are to be alive, how we are all the same in some ways despite our outward differences and more. I also enjoyed the little nuances in the film such as the idea of the hummingbird as a mascot/symbol for Benjamin. After all, the hummingbird is the only bird that can actually fly backwards. And even the love affair, strange as it seemed, was handled extremely well. I also thought it clever to equate dementia with the very earliest stages of a normal life.
The adventures that Benjamin Button takes and the way the tale is told is curiously reminiscent of Forrest Gump with the exception that Benjamin's journey is written in a journal and Forrest's journey is told to a number of strangers that happen upon him while at a bus stop. Similar, too, are those life lessons and the romance that lasts decades. So, you might say that, but for the difference in their physical issues, the stories of Benjamin Button and Forrest Gump are so similar that you may feel this has all been done before. And yet, it's the differences between the two characters and the challenges that they face because of these differences that makes The Curious Case of Benjamin Button unique.
The version of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button that I purchased did not contain any extras. A shame, really, because I would have liked to know the behind the scenes stuff like how they chose the various actors who portrayed Benjamin and Daisy, how the makeup department was able to make them all look so similar, how the project developed from a 1922 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald and more. That being said, I can honestly say that I found myself surprised at how much I enjoyed watching this movie. I found the acting was so good as to make the truly incredible story actually believable. The attention to detail on the various sets was enough to bring the story to life and the various camera angles made one feel like they were looking upon the story from the viewpoint of others. I even enjoyed the little twist at the end, despite having figured it out long before it is actually revealed.
All-in-all, I found The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to be quite an interesting and enjoyable movie watching experience.