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On the day that Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, elderly Daisy Williams (nee Fuller) is on her deathbed in a New Orleans hospital. At her side is her adult daughter, Caroline. Daisy asks Caroline to read to her aloud the diary of Daisy's lifelong friend, Benjamin Button. Benjamin's diary recounts his entire extraordinary life, the primary unusual aspect of which was his aging backwards, being diagnosed with several aging diseases at birth and thus given little chance of survival, but who does survive and gets younger with time. Abandoned by his biological father, Thomas Button, after Benjamin's biological mother died in childbirth, Benjamin was raised by Queenie, a black woman and caregiver at a seniors home. Daisy's grandmother was a resident at that home, which is where she first met Benjamin. Although separated through the years, Daisy and Benjamin remain in contact throughout their lives, reconnecting in their forties when in age they finally match up. Some of the revelations ... Written by
Possibly the most anticipated winter film of 2008, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a curious film indeed. It's got an intriguing and completely absorbing story, as well as my favorite director, David Fincher, on the top of his game. With "Button", Fincher cements his place as one of the best directors alive, as his film is nothing short of magical, mesmerizing, riveting, ground breaking, and ultimately, timeless.
When I first heard about this movie, I had to wonder...how was Fincher, the guy responsible for realistic, gripping, crime thrillers like Seven and Zodiac going to pull off the fantasy film of a lifetime? Armed with a massive budget, Fincher uses everything a director can use to craft the most charming and technically brilliant film of the year. It's a film to be cherished for ages.
"Button" has struck me like this because a recurring theme in the film is that age is only a number, and that we as people can choose what we do with our lives, no matter what our age is. What better way to tell this message than through a story where the titular character ages backwards, and must experience life in such a way? How does one fall in love when he could one day appear young enough to be his spouse's child? How does a 5 year old play with the neighborhood children when he's confined to a wheelchair stricken with old age? Fincher's epic explores our choices, lives, and the timelessness of life itself.
Brad Pitt plays the title role of Benjamin Button with a certain air of likability like he always does. While I felt he did a good job with the part, he didn't have to do much...Benjamin, fittingly, is a rather quiet character (I'd be willing to bet he narrates more than he actually talks in the film). In terms of acting, the film belongs to the ladies, Cate Blanchett and Taraji P. Henson in particular. Though Blanchett may seem overrated to some, there's no denying her unrivaled talent at playing a character as complex and deep as Daisy, and she pulls it off with ease and charisma. Taraji P. Henson will warm your heart as Benjamin's mother, as she's humorous, warm, and loving, so loving that I felt as if she was my mother.
The main complexity behind the film, especially with a director like David Fincher, is keeping the film grounded in reality, while maintaining the undeniable magic within. As a director, you don't want to lose too much of either quality, instead keeping a healthy balance of the two. I feel that Fincher accomplished this perfectly. He is mainly helped out by a magical score, and absolutely stunning cinematography (which immediately identified it as a Fincher film, because of the darkness and lighting of it).
Despite the wonder and awe of the film, mixed with the realism that Fincher always brings, the true allure of the film is not just Benjamin's aging problem, but the romance between Benjamin and Daisy, which is beautiful. Two people in love, regardless of age, time, or place. It's one of the most compelling romances of the year.
"Button" is also the most technically well made movie of 2008, as the true standouts are the Visual Effects and the Makeup, both of which are Oscar worthy. Pitt plays the character at almost every age, but it's almost impossible to tell when the CGI is being used on him. You know it's there, obviously, but you can't tell it's being used. When the transition is just smooth enough for the Visual Effects to be retired, but just rough enough to use makeup, it's absolutely perfect. If you've ever wanted to see Brad Pitt look 20 again, look no further, as the effects that make our actors young again (the same goes for Blanchett) are just as stunning as those that make them older.
Despite a long runtime, the film never drags. If I had to point out one thing I would've liked to have seen a little more of, it would've been more of Benjamin as a little kid, as I felt that was rushed (for those who don't know what I mean, I mean the last parts of the film when he's old, but his body is young). This doesn't hurt the film in any way, as it's just my wishful thinking.
I know I've used the word 'magical' a lot in this review, and don't think it's on accident. If I could pick one word to describe David Fincher's masterpiece, that would be it: magical. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is a captivating piece of art that shouldn't be missed by anyone.
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