The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Directed By: David Fincher

Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Julia Ormond, Jason Flemyng, Elias Koteas, Tilda Swinton, and Jared Harris
For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be.  There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing.  We can make the best or the worst of it.  I hope you make the best of it.  And I hope you see things that startle you.  I hope you feel things you never felt before.  I hope you meet people with a different point of view.  I hope you live a life you're proud of.  If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.
-Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt)

As a movie blogger, I'm frequently asked the question "What's your favorite movie?”  After answering that question on countless occasions, I can honestly say that I have no damn clue.  It depends on the day of the week.  With more than a century of film under our belts now, there are more gems of cinema that I love than I care to count.  A more interesting question would be "Beyond obvious choices like The Godfather, Shawshank Redemption, or The Dark Knight, what movies could you watch any day of the week?”  Then you'll really know what my favorite movies are.  For me, one such movie is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, an enchanting film that reminds us all to live life to the fullest.

On her deathbed at a New Orleans hospital in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina fast approaching, an elderly Daisy Fuller (Cate Blanchett) asks her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) to read to her.  She asks her to read her the diary of a man named Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt).  Born under unusual circumstances the night the First World War ended, Benjamin Button is an infant with a unique problem.  He's a little old man.  With his mother dying in childbirth, Benjamin's father Thomas (Jason Flemyng) is not too interested in caring for a child with the ailments of an octogenarian.  Soon after Benjamin's birth, Thomas abandons the boy at the steps of a nursing home where Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) and Mr. Tizzy (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) find him and take him into the facility.  The one-of-a-kind child consequently starts his life where most people go to finish theirs.

Benjamin fits right in at the nursing home, but it quickly becomes clear just how unique this child is.  As time marches on, he starts to walk, talk, and really come to life.  As he watches the elderly residents around him get older by the day, this boy born into his golden years gets younger and younger.  When Mrs. Fuller (Phyllis Somerville) brings her granddaughter Daisy to the nursing home for Thanksgiving in 1930, Benjamin experiences a truly rare thing, love at first site.  As the two youngsters get to know one another, they become very close.  This goes on for most of their youth until Benjamin leaves New Orleans to work for Captain Mike Clark (Jared Harris) on a tugboat.  Sometime later, Daisy heads to New York to pursue a dance career.  In the present, the diary Caroline is reading to her mother chronicles Benjamin's upbringing, his overseas adventures, and his once-in-a-lifetime romance with her mother Daisy.  By reading Benjamin's journal, Caroline is exploring a chapter of her mother's life she never knew happened.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is one truly amazing adventure.  The only comparable cinematic experience in recent film history is Forrest Gump.  Raised by their mothers, working on a boat, and serving their country in war, Benjamin and Forrest aren't terribly dissimilar characters.  On top of this, Queenie's pearl of wisdom "You never know what's coming for you" seems awfully familiar when compared to Mama Gump's "Life is like a box of chocolates".  With this similarity in mind, director David Fincher takes us on a fantastical journey in this rich, engaging adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic short story.  Fincher treats us to an adventure full of some truly beautiful filmmaking of the highest caliber.  When we factor in the incredible, heartfelt performances from all involved, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a glorious reminder to make the best of our lives. 

There's something truly breathtaking about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  The visual effects and make-up used to show Benjamin at various stages of his life can only be described as outstanding.  In the most vivid clarity, we watch Benjamin grow from a little old man into a debonair adult and ultimately into an elder in diapers (quite literally).  Beyond just Benjamin, Fincher gives us a cinematic feast trademarked by golden yellow cinematography, meticulously crafted set designs, and a lovely melodic score.  All of this enriches Benjamin's tale as he lives through various periods in the twentieth century and makes something truly special of his life.

Our two leads bring their absolute best to the film.  For his part as Benjamin, this simple man with a big heart, Brad Pitt gives the performance of his career.  Grappling with the extraordinary circumstances of his character's life, Pitt gives us a conflicted man in a very subversive way.  He gives us a character who wants to experience all the joys of living but doesn't want to burden the ones he loves most with his situation.  This is most apparent in his relationship with Daisy as he nobly struggles with the notion of growing young alongside her.  As Daisy, Cate Blanchett gives us one really passionate woman.  Like Pitt, she wrestles with her own internal dilemma as part of their heartwarming romance on screen.  She struggles with the notion of meeting in the middle.  As Benjamin's wrinkles fade, Daisy's wrinkles multiply.  While they do have that moment when they're the exact same age physically, nothing lasts.  As we watch her transition from an effervescent young girl to a reflective old woman, Blanchett makes it abundantly clear how central this struggle is for her character.

Beyond our two lovebirds, the supporting cast members enamor us with some colorful characters.  As Benjamin's surrogate mother Queenie, Taraji P. Henson puts her own spin on the inspiring mother archetype.  While she offers plenty of wisdom, she also offers plenty of spunk.  Another fun character is Jared Harris's Captain Mike Clark.  As this drunken tugboat sailor, Harris keeps the party going and brings plenty of levity to the film.  We also have Tilda Swinton as Elizabeth Abbott, a middle-age British woman who keeps Benjamin company at night while he’s overseas.  As always, Swinton brings sophistication and class to her role.  More importantly, she gives us a character that embodies everything this film is about by making the most of her time on this earth.  Lastly, the people we remember the least make the greatest impression on us. With this in mind, there are several elder character actors who make lasting impressions in the movie — a feisty Phyllis Somerville as Daisy's grandmother, a listless Ted Manson as the lightning-prone Mr. Daws, and the seasoned Edith Ivey as Benjamin's piano teacher Mrs. Maple.

Growing younger isn't easy, and Benjamin Button's story is a remarkable one because of this.  Full of romance, excitement, and drama, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a signature achievement for David Fincher, Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and all their fellow cast and crew members.  This is cinema at its most awe-inspiring.  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button gets a sober rating.