The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a delicate undertaking. Stylistically showing “a span of history and carefully orchestrating an evolution of style and mood” sum up the long narrative with words like “people are born to die… and do things, fight, and fall in love in between.” The film provides a meditation on mortality and time’s inevitable passage amidst the fleeting sweetness of love and the tormenting pain of human suffering.
Technical brilliance and impressive performances front this intelligent and exquisitely mounted film. It gives an interesting perspective on the human conditions of aging, loss, and mortality. It connects people’s desire to transcend the inevitable constraints of time.
Based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story about a man who ages backwards, this far-fetched fairy-tale about the freakish birth of an infant born as an old man captures the sadness and exhilaration of life and the melancholic ideas concerning mortality. It is a reminder of the transience of life and the temporariness of the mortal flesh.
The film has a scope and reach of almost a century. It injects a number of American historical landmarks and tragedies within the story and let them blend gracefully together. It’s a moving, lyrical tale that keeps its light and dark elements with a speculative and enthralling fantasy about what it would be like to age in reverse. Its eloquently epic sweep is backed up by its richness and intelligence. And amidst the few excesses and the pacing on the latter part of the film seemingly yielding to what I can personally brand as “film production pressure,” The Curious Case of Benjamin Button still succeeds in leaving that kind of intentional wistfulness, morality and mortality plays. Its sentimental fantasy through the use of awkwardly mannered whimsy is both rambling and gorgeous.
What makes the film stand firm is its achingly human traits as a cinematic offer. Director David Fincher tells an imaginative story with a solid eye for atmosphere and detail. He indulges with his noticeable flair for lengthy films with enough sense and wonder that you tend to forgive any one or two missteps. He is witty enough in utilizing the novelty, sentimentality, and emotional poignancy through visually arresting shots and in putting the right dose of humor to the film’s serious length. Interestingly, the film’s bleak message can even evoke feelings of hope and wonder. Indeed, this adaptation from Fitzgerald’s short story explores life, death, fate, and mortality in a long, impeccably detailed, richly textured story about a man’s unusual life and the bizarre consequences of him aging by growing younger.
With an adapted screenplay from Eric Roth and Robin Swicord and with Fincher at helm, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button becomes a classy film with old school treatment while employing modern technology to keep up with its grandiose treatment. It is masterful enough in combining the many aspects of production including directing, pacing, editing, acting, make-up, set design, and special effects. The make-up, prosthetics, and special effects are exceptionally good. Other than some artificiality seen in a few effects, mainly the scenes involving bodies of water, the effects are not overdone and are generally convincing for the story. The elegant visual delight and the nostalgic mood are deeply felt on the New Orleans’ lovely old neighborhoods. And along with the haunting and mythical musical score, it exudes a romantic ambiance forming an ideal locale for a gently fantastical tale of a man living his life resoundingly in reverse. And so, despite its length and expansive pace, the film does not go the dull route.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is well structured and well acted. The movie characters are distinct, memorable, and wonderfully conceived. They draw the right energy from the smallest gestures and the simplest scenarios. The film shows how life offers such a short time and how people should make the most out of it. And even though this is a clear work of fiction, its very message rings very true in real life. Pitt as Benjamin Button delivers an effectively underplayed performance. He offers a ride that is gentle and whimsical, passive and pathetic, loving and affecting. Along with the rest of the characters from their youth to their old ages, he is able to transcend a challenging role through his ability to make people believe he is an old man and a young boy in the same film. It is such a tough, complicated, and ambitious endeavor. And letting it work and evoke such an intensity is a true achievement.
Pitt and Blanchett definitely prove their acting talents here. Overall, they work as a good tandem. However, when seeking perfection, their on-screen chemistry seems to lack a deeper emotional core as the most passionate lovers on a cinematic masterpiece. This is not a question about acting performances but more on that unexplainably subjective spark of chemistry that can be seen in some perfect on screen romantic partnerships. The rest of the performances are very notable as well as this lovable band of lovers, eccentrics, and misfits open life’s many facets to Benjamin. To mention a few of the many commendable acting stints would include Taraji Henson as Benjamin’s surrogate Queenie, Tilda Swinton as Benjamin’s first lover Elizabeth Abbott, Jason Flemyng as Benjamin’s biological father Thomas Button, and Julia Ormond as Daisy’s daughter Caroline.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button makes some powerful points about the precious commodities of love, happiness, and time by mounting a grand tale full of melancholy and romance. It brings exquisite weight to the human experience through a beguiling measure of the mysteries of aging and death. Being an epic story revolving around mortality, it makes the audience think on how to live life in the past, future, and especially the present. Amidst some of the film’s excessive parts, Fincher mainly succeeds in making the film a charming, touching, and timeless classic.