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December 31, 2008 > Movie Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Movie Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

By Julie Grabowski

William Trevor wrote, "A person's life isn't orderly... it runs about all over the place, in and out through time. The present's hardly there; the future doesn't exist. Only love matters in the bits and pieces of a person's life." This belief echoes throughout "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," director David Fincher's entrancing tale of a man whose life runs backwards.

Based on the 1922 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, we are introduced to Benjamin (Brad Pitt) through his diary, read by Caroline (Julia Ormond) to her dying mother Daisy (Cate Blanchett) as Hurricane Katrina nears. Born in 1918 New Orleans at the close of World War I, Benjamin's arrival costs his mother's life, and his shocking appearance spurs his father to abandon him on the steps of a retirement home.

A baby bearing all the decrepitude of a man in his 80s does not repel the tender Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) who unhesitatingly takes Benjamin in to raise. He experiences the revolving door of life and death among the elderly, his own passing months and years granting him constant improvement in body and mind. His curious, eager nature leads him to the life of a sailor, experiencing the wonders of the world, women, and war. But it all leads back to Daisy, whom he met when she was a child visiting the retirement home. She remains the one constant in his life, even as their time flows in opposite directions.

Nominated for five Golden Globe Awards and sure to be on the Oscar list, the film is a sweeping, poignant account of the intersections of life and death, love, and letting go. It explores the task of living; how events and people shape a life and define it, even with the briefest of encounters. Benjamin points out that there are no rules to life, that we are free to change or stay the same, to start over at any point to become what we want to be, that life is about seeing and feeling things, and meeting people. "Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss," he says.

While the special effects are amazing and the settings lush and evocative, the characters are the true focal point and lure of the film. Pitt and Blanchett are flawless, completely believable and engaging. Although the film runs over 2 and a half hours, not a moment feels wasted or gratuitous, but leaves the pleasant tiredness of a shared and meaningful journey.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is original and compelling, a touching exploration of the glories and hardships of the human condition that lingers far beyond the theatre doors.

Runtime: 2 hrs 48 mins.
Rated PG-13

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