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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Getting Younger with Age

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

You’ll be happy to know that one of the most anticipated films of 2008 is a winner. David Fincher re-teams with Brad Pitt, following Seven and Fight Club, to create a re-imagining of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic short story, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". I say “re-imagining” because the film does take many liberties with the story, but it’s still as compelling as Fitzgerald first imagined it.

Written by Eric Roth it has the same “realistic fantasy” atmosphere of his previous Oscar winning screenplay, Forrest Gump. He creates a world like ours, but with an aura of mysticism that’s always lingering. It’s the perfect ambiance for a story of a man who ages backwards -- but only in physical appearance. It’s a meditation on life and offers a different perspective on what we’re doing here. Would it be any different if we aged opposite of everyone else? Benjamin still watches everyone around him grow old and die, he still has trouble finding, and keeping, love and, just like everyone else, he has trouble finding acceptance. It’s not the story of someone who’s radically different, but it illuminates the troubles and happiness all of us have.

The film is framed through a secondhand telling of Benjamin’s story by the daughter of Daisy (Cate Blanchett), who is, as is suspected, Benjamin’s former lover. As she lies in a New Orleans hospital bed, breaths away from death, and with a hurricane pounding the windows, Daisy tells her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) to read her a diary, purportedly Benjamin’s. Soon we are transported back to the early 1900s where we start learning of Benjamin’s story. Also like Forrest Gump, this film is an epic in nature, but it feels much smaller.

Brad Pitt does a fantastic job as Benjamin. It’s obvious that his transformation from an elderly man is done with the aid of CGI but Roth’s fabled script makes it appear alright. Pitt exudes a mysterious air and is able to transform as Benjamin does. He doesn’t let the humor of Benjamin’s predicament escape him and seizes the moments when he can, manifesting his deep understanding of the character. Yet, what Pitt does best is to allow his ancillary actors to grow as he does.

Fincher, Roth, Pitt, Blanchett and the rest of the cast create an amazing epic story that, at nearly three hours, is able to keep you glued to the screen for its entirety. Some may find the secondhand telling of Benjamin’s story unnecessary but it creates an anchor for real life as the fantastical story unfolds. It’s a great film and like Benjamin, will only become more beautiful with age.