The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
David Fincher :: USA :: 2008 :: 2h35
In New Orleans, 1918, a mother dies in childbirth. Her husband picks up the child, only to find him with a body deteriorated as if he was 80 years old. Shocked, the father runs out into the street, and leaves the nameless baby on a random doorstep, to be found by raised by the barren Queenie, who works in a nursing home. Queenie names the baby Benjamin, accepting him as he is.
And what he is, is far from the ordinary: Benjamin (Brad Pitt) starts his life with the body of an old man, strengthening up to middle age and youth, to eventually leaves life as a baby! None the less, his life unfolds somewhat normally, falling in love with “the girl next door” Daisy (Cate Blanchett), but their bodies are only ever really in sync when they are both 40. In the second half of their lives, the one grows older and the other younger, putting an inevitable complication on their love.
Based on a short story by Scott Fitzgerald, who answered Mark Twain’s regret that the best part of life came in the beginning and the worst at the end. The humorous postulate made for a outrageous story. However captivating the idea, in the movie, Benjamin suffers more from a bizarre disability than anything else. His best years are in the middle, not in the beginning, nor in the end.
The movie tries to present a common, normal life with an absurd, impossible element. As if the absurd would have to be accepted through the normality of the rest. But the absurd does not need to be credible, or accepted here. As a thought experiment, the reversal of age is considerably more exciting than watching the relatively “normal” lives of these characters. Of course, you have Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett to compensate you there. The movie would have been so much more captivating -as the short story is-, if the benefits of Benjamin’s age actually came with his age. But would we then be somewhat naive and reckless after 30 years of marriage, with our youthful long hair and handsome looks? But what would that be worth if the love of our life had aged? The film manoeuvresaround the awkwardness to create a normality… something you should certainly not do in the café afterwards – the concept is too seductively humorous and cryptic to pass over, as this film has done.