The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) – Film Review

Brad Pitt lives a life in reverse in David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

For several years rumours abounded that a movie was to be filmed which would document the life of a man born old who grew younger as he aged.

Cue gossip and speculation as to just how filming would be undertaken and whether Brad Pitt, the man finally chosen to attempt the role, would be up to the task. The film created was, of course, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and provides a believable glimpse at the complicated life of a man faced with living a life in reverse.

Taken in and adopted when his father (Jason Flemyng) abandons him, Benjamin has to overcome the pitfalls of old age whilst simultaneously living life as a newborn. His adopted mother Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) fortunately both lives and works in a senior home when she takes the young old baby and so is more than capable with the task set for her and, combined with the love she feels for the strange child, lovingly brings him up. The film follows Benjamin as he lives his strange life, filled with strange happenings, a lifetime love for his friend Daisy (who grows into Cate Blanchet) and his continued journey toward becoming an infant.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a film sandwiched by Daisy’s daughter reading Benjamin’s diary to her mother as she lies on her deathbed. The relationship between Benjamin and Daisy is plagued by his peculiar ageing and they are ultimately victims of his condition. Having to continually fight against his condition there is only one point in their lives where they find that they are comparatively equal in age.

Littered with references to time and the bizarre relationship Benjamin has with it, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button tackles issues regarding time head-on. Natural oddities are present in the film which nod toward a backward trajectory of time; Hummingbirds are, for example, the only known bird that can fly backward whilst hurricanes spin counter-clockwise. The conversation Benjamin has with Daisy regarding Kismet tackles the ideas of fate and destiny and, with Benjamin’s life counting down backward from a predetermined old age, the question of the longevity of his lifespan is questioned.

Filled with pioneering special effects and make up The Curious Case of Benjamin Button transcends the boundaries of time. The inclusion of such effects is never intrusive, being noticeable only for their newness, and don’t impose themselves on the storyline (as perhaps effects in films such as Avatar do). The effects honed here in David Fincher’s film are set to be increasingly used in cinema. Similar technology was embraced in James Cameron’s Avatar, will be used in Steven Spielberg’s Tintin and can be seen in cinemas this winter in Tron: Legacy when Jeff Bridges goes back to his youth in the eighties original’s sequel.

Best bit: Mr. Daw’s lightning tales offer light relief to Benjamin’s bizarre life.
Best performance:; Brad Pitt as Benjamin.
Best line: ‘Did I ever tell you I been struck by lightning seven times? Once when I was just sittin’ in my truck just minding my own business. (Poor Mr. Daws)
Watch this if you liked: The Notebook, Big Fish.

Having been in production since 1994, in 1998 it was thought John Travolta would take the lead.

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