The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a curious movie starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Julia Ormond, Tilda Swinton and Jared Harris. The fantasy drama film, based on the 1921 short story of the same name written by F. Scott Fitzgerald received thirteen Academy Award nominations and won three Oscars for Art Direction, Makeup, and Visual Effects. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was released in the United States on December 25, 2008 and on DVD on May 5, 2009.
The movie begins as Hurricane Katrina is bearing down on New Orleans. An old woman, Daisy (Cate Blanchett), is on her deathbed and her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) is with her in the hospital. Daisy has Caroline get an old journal out of her bag and asks her to read it out loud to her. As Caroline opens the diary, she discovers photographs, postcards and the autobiography of Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). Thus begins the story of Benjamin Button.
Born in 1918 at the end of the Great War, Benjamin was born with the appearance of an old man as well as accompanying infirmities such as arthritis. Benjamin’s mother dies right after giving birth. His despairing father, Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng), runs off with his son and abandons him at a nursing home with some money. There Benjamin is discovered by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) and Tizzy (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), a black couple who works at the home.
The kindly Queenie is unable to have children, so she decides to take the baby in against Tizzy’s wishes. Queenie thinks the baby does not have long to live. She names the baby Benjamin and the ancient baby and shriveled old child fits right in with the other residents. As time passes, Benjamin slowly grows younger and less decrepit, although it tales years before Queenie and Benjamin realize what is happening.
Young Daisy (Elle Fanning) first meets Benjamin in 1930 when she comes to visit her grandmother at the nursing home. Benjamin is still an old man and Daisy is a young girl, but both are about 8 emotionally. They form an immediate bond and enjoy spending time together whenever Daisy comes to visit.
Benjamin continues to grow younger and several years later, he begins to work for Captain Mike (Jared Harris) on a tugboat. Captain Mike takes Benjamin to a brothel and later a bar. Thomas Button sees Benjamin at the brothel and follows him to the bar. Although he spends some time with Benjamin, he doesn’t tell Benjamin he is his father.
Benjamin eventually grows young and healthy enough to leave the nursing home to join the tugboat crew for a lengthy job. Before he leaves, a heartbroken Daisy asks him to send her postcards from every place he visits, which Benjamin faithfully does. The tugboat crew enlists in World War II, Benjamin meets his first love (Tilda Swinton), and when he returns home, he and Daisy reunite closer in age.
I didn’t time it, but I would guess roughly an hour has passed at this point and although a lot has happened, it feels like not much as happened. And there is still another hour and a half to go. I don’t know if it was just my copy of the DVD, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was dark both in tone and in presentation. The film was so dark at times it was hard to see, and I found the story almost as dark. An abandoned, malformed baby; the death of several residents; trips to brothels and cars; a strange war sequence; and lots of affairs – almost all of the relationships in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are extra-marital. F. Scott Fitzgerald had a fascination with youth and promise, despair and age, and the cold, often cruel hand of fate. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button encompasses all those themes, but it is a slow-moving, often bleak look at life.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is rated PG-13 for some war violence, sexual content, language and smoking.