Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Everyone has been telling me to see this movie, and the post-holiday-everything prevented me from going until now. I saw Benjamin Button in the village this afternoon and wowza, this film deserves merit. I fell in love with it.

Its a grand film, in line with Forest Gump, as they share writer Eric Roth. Roth adapted the tale from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of my very favorite writers. Its the most nourishing and satisfyingly long film that I've seen in a while. It had that grand swoop that kept us interested and climaxed just when we were ready. We left full and content, with the sweetest of tastes left lingering.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a film about time, a relatively neutral idea until thought about backwards. Its that very simple concept of time that kept our attention for the entire three hours as we understood that this was a movie about a lifetime... it wouldn't end prematurely.

We held our breath as Benjamin and Daisy grew closer in age, knowing what was coming. The meeting was nothing short of spectacular. I can say with complete sincerity that the love shared between these two characters for that brief span (of, what, fifteen years? ten?) was one of my favorite love stories. The shots were gorgeous and life filled and completely joyous. I realize that the brevity is what made it such and that's okay.

Sometimes the best love stories are those that remain rose-colored and cherished simply because both players know what's fleeting. A clarity of what's important, what matters, and what constitutes priority is much better understood with a deadline involved. Love can be acted out in its fullest because the maybes are removed. When we know it can never last, we want it that much more. However, because of the finality, because of the known end... they are the most heartbreaking as well.

The animation was incredible. I didn't know what to expect and was prepared to be weirded out by 80-70-60 year old Brad. But he played it well and the make-up/digital team deserves props. Brad successfully aged backwards not only because of the special effects but also because of his placement. He was placed in a fairy tale, not a gritty, uber realistic world. We believed it as we believe in Pinocchio or ET. Because its a mere story and why not just go with it.

Speaking of Brad... has anyone ever been that attractive?! I don't remember the last actor that mesmerized us in the way that 40-20 year old Brad Pitt did. We were anxiously waiting for him to reach the Brad we know and when he finally settled into self I GASPED. Even better looking we were anticipating. GORGEOUS human being. He was Robert Redford reincarnate but with more chiseled features and a saucier smile. YUM.

Cate Blanchett was also the textbook definition of beautiful, with her long red hair and graceful lines. She moved like a dancer and talked like a performer, and each age was captured with such dead-on gusto. 20-something New York Modernist Cate reminded me a little too much of myself with her naive passion and undeserved resolution. At the same time, 35-45 year old Cate was who I want to become... someone who understands what is important and what is deserving of her time and energy. I loved that they spent most of their time on that mattress... laughing, dancing, kissing, talking, reading, loving. The 'duplex years' was such a fantastic sequence.

The accident scene was also lovely, as it brought light to the idea of human connectedness. It demonstrates how every little thing we do does affect everything else... the It's A Wonderful Life theme on scary-true terms. Had the woman not forgotten her coat, the cab driver not stopped for coffee, the store clerk not broken up with her boyfriend, the gift had not been wrapped... Daisy would not have been hit by a car.

It isn't an extraordinary idea, its the most common truth of all. We know on some level that our lives are the result of others, we just aren't able to track it as Benjamin did for us. When we see each step that lead up to a pivotal moment, we understand that everything is an intersection of lives and incidents.

Benjamin and Daisy eventually did pass to a place where the love affair had to end. As I said before, we knew it would come and so did they. The story wrapped up quickly from there, aging Daisy and taking Benjamin far from his self and his mind. It definitely alluded that we enter and leave this world in the same state. They have seen everything, know everything, and have survived everything, yet all they want to talk about is the weather, observes Benjamin.

The film touched on very profound truths about life and death and endings and beginnings. This was only palpable as it was piggybacked by wonderfully light interludes like the man being struck seven times by lightning, and Benjamin's deadpan explanations of his condition. They say I will die soon... but maybe not.

Some will say that this film was too long, but I disagree. It needed the length for breathing room and fullness. My only real complaint is how they told the story... I don't think that Daisy in the deathbed during Katrina was necessary. I would have preferred an unseen narrator to the daughter's stale prose. I simply don't understand how those scenes added to the film or to the story. If only they asked me first... :)

Benjamin Button will stay with me for a long time. Everything from Queenie's heart and generosity to Daisy's self involved grace touched me to the core. I loved the themes of acceptance and longevity and connection. It was done very, very well. However, we are obviously left with the question of what we would do... could we love someone that we know would have to leave us? The answer is simple: If he looked anything like Brad Pitt, even a moment would sustain us for a lifetime. Amen.


La said...

I'd been waiting for this blog and wasn't disappointed. I too was impressed by the realistic aging of the characters...when the film was over, I wasn't able to remember exactly when in the movie Cate and Brad were playing their current age. I do have to say that my friend Beth (also an OB-Gyn resident) and I couldn't quite get over how scary and wierd it would be to deliver a baby that looked like an old man. Brad Pitt was exceptionally gorgeous in his 20s-40s...he reminds me of Robert Redford as well. I don't think I can imagine two other actors so perfect for Benjamin and Daisy. Glad you liked it...but I knew you would. :-)

David Henly said...

Beautifully done sarah. How old are you? For me the feeling of the film is summarized when Ben leans over Daisy in bed and says "I wish it would last." Three hours was too short and the art direction and production was magnificent. From henceforth I will describe any true love in my life as "my Daisy." We all need a muse.

Aunt Fay said...

Sarah, I continue to be impressed by the depth of your writing and perceptions. As a fellow movie junkie, I love your insights. I thought of you often while watching Cate in Benjamin Button—her character reminded me of you!

La, how funny that you felt “scary and weird" thinking of delivering an “aged baby. You are truly a hoot!

B Butler said...

Sarah: The three of us saw the film last night and I also felt that the movie was about life and love and opportunities taken advantage of and those that were missed. The reverse aging thing was odd but didn't seem to matter. I laughed at Lauras comment about delivering an old man baby, I guess that is the scientist side of her and I agree, it would be weird, but that idea didn't seem to matter while I watched the movie. I enjoyed the movie.Dad