Comments on watching and making films.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

David Fincher is one of the great director's of his generation. Although he hasn't made that many films, as compared to the filmmakers that started coming out around his time (Steven Soderbergh, Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith), all of his films (short of the studio cannibalised  Alien 3) have been amazing works of art. He has made countless television commercials and music videos, and continues to expand his visual grammar. With The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, though, he's brought a softer edged humanity to his story telling, with the help of source material by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Button is the story of one man's life, lived physically in reverse. He is born the average weight and size of a new born, but with all of the characteristics of a man well into his eighties. He spends his early life fighting geriatric ailments, living in an old folks home, and believing himself to be just like those around him. As he grows older, though, he grows physically younger, feeling constantly out of place as he maneuvers his way through an ever changing world. He constantly opens himself up to new encounters, and new loves, but is always forced to give up those things which he loves the most.

And that is the key to Button. If there is a single message in the film it is that death, and letting go of the things you love the most in life, is a natural part of life. It happens to everyone, and can not be controlled. Button is a heartbreaking film, and, as the title character, Brad Pitt brings an unbelievable earnestness to Benjamin, a simple man who always seems to be happy to simply experience life. Fincher puts on an incredible patina to the entire film, making you feel, more than almost any other film I've ever seen, that you are right there in that moment with Benjamin. Cate Blanchett plays Daisy, Benjamin's life long love interest with absolute honesty and clarity. She is the person you fall in love with, and lose, but you never really lose them in your heart. Benjamin is lucky enough, though, that he and Daisy always seem to find each other.

I think the one thing that surprised me the most about Button, though, was the importance of women in Benjamin's life. You never seem him have any guy friends. There is no real father figure (even his real father never really gets to act the part). The film is, in fact, completely about the women in Benjamin's life - Queenie, the woman who becomes his mother after he's abandoned at birth, Daisy, his life long love, and Elizabeth, a relationship he has while working as a sailor in Russia. Love, in this film, whether familial or romantic, is the number one message of this film - You may get only one chance to seize your moment with someone. If your lucky, and you screw up the first one, you might get a second, but its best to take the chance when you have it. Life doesn't last forever, and whether your young or old, you WILL lose everything and everyone you love in the end. Love them while you have them. Make today the day.

I want to end this review with this phrase that Benjamin writes to his daughter - "If you find yourself living a life your not proud of, I hope you have the strength to start over".

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