“We’re meant to lose the people we love.”
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It was tough for me to watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button without being reminded of Forrest Gump. It’s a long movie, and Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) does so many things in his life that it plays a lot like Gump in reverse. And, like Forrest Gump, it is a powerful and moving movie that did not deserve the Best Picture Oscar. Button didn’t win that Oscar, but Gump did. Over Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. (It should be noted that in that particular year, Four Weddings and a Funeral was also up for the Best Picture award. Ugh.)
The movie is about a man who is about ninety years old when he is born, and ages backwards. The makeup in the film is truly remarkable – Brad Pitt plays Button as an old man and as a young man, and he isn’t even recognizeable as Pitt until about the one-hour mark of the movie. He has a lifelong love affair with Daisy (Cate Blanchett), and it’s about an hour and a half into the film before I recognized her. The story is told through Blanchett, now an old woman in a hospital bed (strangely, in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, for some reason) and her daughter, played by Julia Ormond. I’m a little sick of the device of someone-reading-a-book as a way of telling the story. It works here, but it’s becoming a little trite in movies.
Button starts out as a rather cute old man, and he has somewhat of a Gollum in Lord Of The Rings thing going on. As he ages, or rather becomes younger, he looks more and more like Brad Pitt, and it makes more and more sense that Daisy would be in love with him. As the movie goes along, little indicators, on the radio or on television, are helpful in letting us know what the date is, and Blanchett’s character is helpful in letting us know how old Button really is. If she is seventeen, he is twenty-two years old (even though he looks to be sixty-five). There are moments where I really wanted to know his actual age, and I always had a pretty good approximation.
Over the course of the film, he works on a tugboat (remember Gump‘s shrimp boat?), fights in a war (remember…ah, never mind), runs a button factory, and works at a tollbooth in India. Through it all, he has this awkward romance with Cate Blanchett, his Jenny, who of course gets older as Button gets younger. There are some very powerful moments in this relationship, as we can see the two going in opposite directions, but retaining a terrifically strong bond.
“Want me to skip some?”
When Julia Ormond asks her dying mother if she wants her to skip some of the story, I thought “yes!” The one thing I can say detracts from this movie is that it is just too long. There is too much going on, and I understand that we’re seeing a man’s entire life here. And although there were very few moments where I was bored, thanks to the performances of Pitt and Blanchett and the expert direction of David Fincher, there were many moments when I was very impatient. Get on with the story, I thought. I don’t want to dwell on every event, I want to move on to the next one so I know what happens next.
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button is a heartfelt, brilliantly acted and engaging movie about a very interesting subject. But it IS almost three hours, and your patience can certainly be tested over the course of those almost three hours. It comes out on DVD May 5th from Paramount Home Entertainment.