Sunday, December 28, 2008

Review: Benjamin Button

The other night I went to the movies with family (JP, DG, & JB) to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The movie has been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, and I'm sure there will be a few Academy Award nominations as well. The movie was fascinating. It tells the story of Benjamin Button, who was born just after World War I in New Orleans. Although he's born as a baby, his physique is that of an old man, and as he ages, he grows younger. The movie is based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Brad Pitt really does an amazing job in this film. His acting is superb as he captures the nuances of learning about life from a child's perspective, despite his own uncertainty about how old he actually is. The fact that he is raised in an "old folks' home" works beautifully, because although he fits in with the other residents physically and emotionally, as he grows younger and stronger, he is exposed to the reality of death as an omnipresent element in our lives. The childlike spark of romance between him as an old man and Daisy, the visiting young granddaughter of one of the residents, is charming, but becomes the impetus for a love story that penetrates the entire film. As adults, Benjamin and Daisy's love story is everything a romance should be, although the harbinger of storms and dark times always overshadow their romance and are seen in the film as a reminder of this.

Cate Blanchett is magnificent as Daisy, and I feel like she has been robbed by not being nominated for a Golden Globe for best actress. Tilda Swinton puts in another superb turn in her brief role as well (although after throwing away her Oscar for Michael Clayton, I suspect no one in Hollywood will ever nominate her again for an award). Many of the other actors who star in supporting roles are excellent as well, such as Taraji P. Henson who plays his adopted mother Queenie, and Jared Harris who plays Captain Mike.

The movie conveys important lessons about living and dying, about time, experience, and kismet. These are lessons we all need to be reminded about from time to time. Death is what makes us appreciate the ones we love and our own life. Without death, we would never understand the purpose of living. This film is a drama, a fantasy, and a romance, and it works uniquely in all three ways. It unfolds over the course of some 80 years, but unfortunately it feels like it. In other words, it's a long, drawn-out movie. During our showing, one group of people got up and walked out, and we still think my aunt nodded off once or twice (although she denies it). Still, though everyone may have thought it was long and required much attention on the viewers' part, what surprised me was that not another person in the theater moved or got up to go to the bathroom or get a snack. The movie mesmerizes you with its dialogue, its acting, and the aging make-up. It truly is a brilliant film, but one that requires a lot of patience and a very comfortable sofa on which to relax and ponder the messages it seeks to share.

Click here for the official website for the movie, and below is one of the official trailers for the film.

No comments: