Thursday, September 24, 2009

Movie Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Some of you might have seen the funny video comparing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to Forrest Gump. I didn’t pay attention to the mawkish similarities while weeping through Benjamin Button and I don’t care to now. I haven’t bawled this much since I watched Russell Crowe’s pectoral-perfect Maximus stagger around a Roman coliseum in Gladiator, pushing open an imaginary heavenly gate that led to his dead wife and son. By the time an elderly Cate Blanchett sat rocking a baby, I jumped off the couch and ran down the hall to the bathroom, where I sat with the door shut for a 10 minute sob. In fact, I didn't even watch the ending until later when I watched it on YouTube, safely settled back into my it's-only-a-movie cocoon.

Little wrinkled Benjamin Button is born one stormy night in the swampy humidity of New Orleans, and his socially prominent biological father leaves him on the doorstep of an old folks’ home, unable and unwilling to raise such a freak of nature. He is raised by a black woman employed at the home, but he’s everyone’s child. It's no surprise that Benjamin the old man-child blends seamlessly into the faded wallpaper and rooms filled with the elderly in wheelchairs.

Benjamin meets a pretty red-haired girl named Daisy at the home and is smitten. She moves in and out of his life, getting older as Benjamin gets younger, and one day they meet in the middle, fall in love, and marry. They live a happy life right out of Chuck Berry’s song about young wedded bliss, “C’est La Vie.” But it isn’t long before their ages start to pass going the other way, and an aging Daisy must accept the choice Benjamin makes as he reverse-ages into young adulthood, adolescence, toddler- and babyhood. If you can guess how it ends it won’t matter, because by then you’ll be too caught up in this extraordinary tale that so fully illustrates the wonder of life at every stage.

Now, Benjamin Button was a big deal when it came to theaters, and it was nominated for and won several awards, so I'm sure most everyone who wanted to see this movie has done so. I usually like to champion and review those little-seen movies that I consider gems (Ravenous, your review is forthcoming), but I heartily embrace the message of Benjamin Button: that life is messy and imperfect beings should not be thrown away; that in the case of a baby born a prematurely-aged man, there is potential friendship and wisdom and love behind such old eyes. If you're as tired as I am of society’s quest for the perfect, plastic human, then you might embrace this weeper, too.

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