Backwards Understood Be Only Can Life
Benjamin Button, an extraordinarily unthinkable man who is born a 70-year-old and grows younger as his life proceeds, eventually dying as an infant. Button, played by the preciously handsome, undoubtedly talented Brad Pitt, has a life unlike anything I’ve heard of before. The film shows magical realism at its finest alongside romance and drama as Benjamin tragically falls in love with Daisy Williams (Nee Fuller). Such a peculiar thing to consider, a man getting younger as he ages, but along with the intriguing mystery of this case I simultaneously considered the significance that age plays in identity. Director David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven, Zodiac, The Social Network) blesses us with yet another unmissable film with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
None of Us are Perfect Forever
The film begins with Daisy painfully on her death bed with her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormund) by her side. She asks Caroline to read out loud the diary of Benjamin Button, and that is how the story is told. There are gaps in the film where they are shown again in the hospital room reading this compelling life story of Benjamin, and may I add that this was a terribly depressing and dreary room as it is set during Hurricane Katrina. From birth, Benjamin is looked at like he is a mutant creature, which really is not shocking because he has the wrinkly, unhealthy face of an aged man and the body size of an infant. He is abandoned by his birth father out of terror and intimidation by the life that could be ahead of him, and left on the steps of a random home as he is frantically running through the streets. A young black woman named Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) stumbles upon him from inside the house, who becomes Benjamin’s caretaker and mother figure, raising him through his unimaginable life. Ironically enough, the house he was left at was an elderly resident home with Queenie being one of the caretakers, and Benjamin fit right in because of the fact that he soon took on the look of the residents, old and in need of help. He was looked at by a nurse and determined that he had arthritis, cataracts, and osteoporosis, and not a good chunk of time left to live. Benjamin continued to live on against the odds, although predictably encountering a lot of troubles. Since he looked like an old man, he was clearly treated like an old man, even though he was less than 10 years old. Now this is what got him in trouble a few times, like drinking at the bar with a friend and missing a ride home, leaving him no option but to walk the whole way back on his crutches. (Button began using a wheelchair in his early years because he had a terrible time trying to walk, and then moved on to the help of crutches as he improved.) Queenie was less than impressed with her 7-year-old doing this, but indeed it was a glorious night of liberty for him. He appears as the typical senior citizen, but he absolutely shows his young age by his actions and mannerisms. A specially remembered day in Benjamin’s life was when Queenie had a gathering for the residents at the home and told them to invite their families. One of the ladies had brought her granddaughter, who caught Benjamins eye the second he saw her. Beautiful green eyes, shining red hair, and a glow radiating from her smile that made you unable to hold one back yourself, it was Daisy Williams. His inner childlike boy came out and developed a crush on her right away. At this time, Daisy was a young girl and Benjamin still appeared to be an old man, but Daisy could tell that something was different about him because of the way he acted to her. “You’re odd,” she said to him one night as they sat in a fort they made together.
The movie continues throughout Benjamin’s life as he notices a new change in his body and health every day, typically being a positive change because he is, in fact, growing younger by the minute. One thing without change was that he couldn’t stop thinking about Daisy. When he leaves to go overseas for war he promises her that he will send her a postcard from every place he goes. As he is getting younger, Daisy is growing up and training to be a ballerina. He kept his promise of sending postcards, and later in life they met up again as their ages began to match. The rest is inevitable, their fates destine them not to be together because of Benjamins reversed-life, but he still was not over this girl — and was convinced he never would be — so he does anything he can to win her over. They become a couple, and we can’t help but root for Benjamin and Daisy, regardless of the fact that we all know their age gap will surely form again and Benjamin will be a child as Daisy grows into an older lady. After attempting a marriage and to have their children together, Daisy abruptly leaves him in the middle of the night because she knows she will be unable to take care of Benjamin along with her children as he gets younger and turns into more of a vast responsibility than her dear and helpful husband. Near the end of the film, Benjamin becomes an unruly toddler that only cooperates when he is around Daisy, who at this time is an elderly woman. Eventually, infant Benjamin passes away in Daisy’s arms. A tragedy in itself, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a beautifully heartbreaking love story alongside the mystery of his fictional, yet realistic circumstance.
The casting of Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button is by far the greatest thing that Fincher decided to do for this film. The role of Benjamin was played by Pitt from birth to death, of course with his extreme cooperation with computer work and makeup. His ability to authentically act every age given to him with ease and grow as a character day by day — backwards — is something to reckon with. The talent that it takes him to make this role come to life is extensive, and none the better to do it than the outstandingly brilliant Academy Winer Brad Pitt.
I think Fincher saw so much talent and success from Pitt in his very own Fight Club and Pitt’s other mega movies, the most eminent being Inglorious Bastards and World War Z. The addition of Nee Fuller to Benjamin’s life as his star-crossed lover only made it better because of both the lovely passion and rough calamities she created within just her lines and played out beautifully. After watching this film, I thought about anything that could possibly compare to this work of art. The Age of Adaline was the first thing that came to mind, although it doesn’t have the exact same circumstance as Benjamin Button, they both defy nature with their atypical life cases. Besides the fact of the obvious main roles, the casting differences as characters grew older was phenomenal, and more importantly, believable, a necessary factor in a film where an entire lifetime passes by. The cinematography of this film is another gracefully crafted facet. As time goes on, every stage in Button’s life seems to give me a new feeling and their effort to portray different moods through these time periods is evident. They elegantly mesh together throughout the storyline and the difference in aura between the hospital scenes with Daisy and the flashbacks into Benjamins life are ultimately contrasting, which left a pleasing impression to me as the viewer.
Age Isn’t Just a Number
The biggest theme I noticed throughout this movie was through the ways that Benjamin dealt with his abnormal aging process. Although it made just about everything different for him, it was the only life he knew. The thing I picked up on is how much age affects identity. This seems obvious, but who has ever really considered this before? The age you are determines your values, interests, goals, and even intelligence. It is easier to notice when you watch someone’s life fold out backwards of course, but if I hadn’t watched this film I wouldn’t have thought about age even touching the person that I grow to be. In his case, it’s reversed because when he is a young child he is looked at as an old, wise person but in reality, his mindset is very inexperienced. The things he is expected to do as a child (while he appeared to be a grown man) are associated with the age he is perceived to be by the public, such as go to get a drink or work overseas. As he grew younger, he learned more about life, and more about the person that he is and what he valued. He dealt with this better than the average person would, when people would expect things out of him that he didn’t understand, but it ended up causing him to develop growth and other means that most wouldn’t. He was lucky to have a support group that normalized his condition, or else he could have let that dictate his identity as well and cause himself to be an outsider. Basically…age is far more than just a number.
Artwork in its Own Form
Phenomenal. Stunning. Absolutely Monumental. Words that I immediately think of when I consider the crafting of this film. A work of art in itself, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button brings a new concept to special effects, because just about anyone in the industry can generate transforming monstrosities fighting evil and each other and other obnoxiously colossal creatures and repeat itself all over again. This film brings new elegance to special effects that really caught me, and it’s thrilling to consider the way they morphed a real human into all the ages of a lifetime, in such a delicate and convincing way. Brad Pitt stars as Benjamin Button from birth to death, and without an amazing actor to pull this off, and the computerization and effect generators to bring this to life, this would truly be impossible. There has got to be nearly half of the film where I don’t think Pitt was involved in the shots at all, and it was all generated from an image of his face morphed into the age he was portraying at the time. Not only do the effects put into it make it a work of art, but Fincher’s ability to bring metaphor into this movie that compares Benjamin’s life with real events in our country.
He ties this together through the symbolism of a clock. The film begins with a very talented clockmaker making a clock at the train station in New Orleans after World War 1. He lost his son in the war, and made the clock so that it ran backwards to symbolize the idea of those gone in the war to return to them. Ironically enough, Benjamin — a man who ages backwards — was born the day after the completion of the new clock. He dies soon after the backwards clock was replaced with a digital clock that ticks forwards, showing another connection to Benjamin’s life. The way this all ties together is a fanciful analogy that was satisfying and moving to myself as a viewer and I’m sure the majority of others. Benjamin Button’s life told out in this appealingly crafted film makes it not just another film to watch and fall in love with, but is undoubtedly a work of art in its own sense.