The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I went to the this show with some initial reluctance, it was supposed to be ‘just another Forrest Gump’, with some moving scenes but clearly tailored to grab Oscars.
Anyway, onto the movie, I saw quite enough of it to want to own it and even savor it in the comfort of my home, and share this review with you, maybe watch it together right to the end
The plot is rather unique, telling the story of Benjamin Button in proxy, by a young lady who sits at the bed of her mother. We can gather from the hospital settings, the morphine that she is dying probably from cancer, and from here, she lets her daughter have a book which she opens to begin narrating the life of Ben and at the same time, cross-reference a diary of this dying old lady, and how their lives intertwine.
Be forewarned, that I will tell you parts of the plot next, but if curiosity get the better of you, read on….
Movies which narrate a person’s life, however unusual are nothing new, but the director has managed to reach out and grab our attention with two elements, empathy & admiration, and relation to Ben. Firstly we all like the idea of someone who makes it despite the odds, and get the girl, the money and the happy ever part don’t we? Secondly the story takes us on a walk through a tumultuous period of modern American history, and stretching from the 30s reach up to the recent times, this movie allows many in the audience to relate to it and share, understand and of course emphatise with the same experiences that Ben encountered. This helps win over the audience and I can see this as a box office hit.
There are a few pre-requisites for an Oscar show, such as touching moments, making your audience reach out for tissue, epic cinematography, a good music score, and a careful selection of the right actors who can look like they are acting without trying too hard to do so. In Cate Blanchet, we have such a bankable star, but Tilda Swinton, Julia Ormond and many others and my personal favorite the lady playing his black mum, Taraji Penda Henson, who seemed to be such a positive person, that many would probably liker her to be their mums too…. She should also consider working in the peadiatrics ICU, or perhaps, in a real orphanage, where the energy she exhibited, the willingness to show love, care and trust in God was like a light to lost sad souls in the darkness. It is no wonder Ben grew up happy and content with someone like that to look after her… a true poster girl for all mothers and care givers.
Then there is Brad Pitt….sometimes, being one of the most desired men on the planet has its drawbacks, and many still doubt his ability to act, but his casting here was actually a positive one and it suited him well, not just as a box office draw, but he did do well to play his role and deserves accolades for it. Of course the people who did his make up to transform him from a man in his 40s to an old man and vice versa did extremely well and kudos to them for such a convincing job. But behind the makeup is a stellar cast who come together to make this quite a special hit.
Moving Oscar type movies sometimes make dry or sappy shows that leave you peering at the clock, but here David Fincher the director does well to blend in humor from small scenes, mixed into the extended love story that makes up the central part of the movie, and parts of unrequited love, and growing old. The themes in this show are manifold, firstly it deals with aging even though it seems that the movie does it in a reverse fashion, it actually portrays the elements of the fear of it, from both sides, and here Cate Blanchet and Brad Pitt do a sterling job. Some of us will definitely relate well to the lose of beauty, the inability to do things we used to be able to do, or the regret of time passing without us achieving much.
Then the love stories that make up the central theme are beautifully done, and made it alright for me. He does not always get what he wants in the show with firstly a teenage kind of love, the ungainly kind we all can relate to, then a hushed clandestine kind of affair, tender despite its forbidden nature and ever more painful at the abrupt end to it with nothing more than a short note slipped under the door to announce it is over. I guess it is kind of like getting dumped on sms, email or even Facebook, the latest way someone can tell you they need space or just want to be friends…
But it is the enduring kind of love which makes it all bearable, the sort that allows you to love without condition, and knowing it will end, but still embracing it and making the best while it lasts. How about trying to love someone you know is terminal? Or who will walk away from you? And then coming to love someone who did walk away from you? A particularly poignant scene involves first the captain of a ship who laid dying apart being shot, and he mutters with his dying breath, that you could curse, hate, scream about things you feel went wrong, did not go your way, but at the end, you just quietly and peacefully perhaps accept it with some dignity. The same kind of quiet dignity comes when the old lady dies too, and the moment of love she shares with her daughter is a good salve for all the hurt that they may have felt through the years.
Ben then repeats these lines when his father dies whilst seated watching his favorite sunrise (gotta go to this place!) and somehow I can relate. For each time something goes wrong, or when I get the “space” line, I can be bitter and indeed I was, never quite understanding why it has to be and definitely not agreeing it is the best thing, but since it tales two to dance a tango, you just quietly with some dignity accept it and relish the positive experiences and the kind of memories you want to keep.
Finally I do urge you to watch it, and perhaps I will join you, in spirit if not in person, as I want to complete the experience and sit down to my own little sunrise too…