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“I was born under unusual circumstances.” And so begins The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, adapted from the 1920s story by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a man who is born in his eighties and ages backwards: a man, like any of us, who is unable to stop time. We follow his story, set in New Orleans, from the end of World War I in 1918 into the 21st century, following his journey that is as unusual as any man’s life can be. Directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett with Taraji P. Henson, Tilda Swinton, Jason Flemyng, Elias Koteas and Julia Ormond, “Benjamin Button,” is a grand tale of a not-so-ordinary man and the people and places he discovers along the way, the loves he finds, the joys of life and the sadness of death, and what lasts beyond time.
The technical dazzle of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a truly astonishing thing to behold: this story of a man who ages backwards requires Brad Pitt to begin life as a tiny elderly man, then blossom into middle age, and finally, wisely, become young. How director David Fincher--with makeup artists, special-effects wizards, and body doubles--achieves this is one of the main sources of fascination in the early reels of the movie. The premise is loosely borrowed from an F. Scott Fitzgerald story and bears an even stronger resemblance to Andrew Sean Greer's novel The Confessions of Max Tivoli, with young/old Benjamin growing up in New Orleans, meeting the girl of his dreams Cate Blanchett, and sharing a few blissful years with her until their different aging agendas send them in opposite directions. The love story takes over the second half of the picture, as Eric Roth's script begins to resemble his work on Forrest Gump. This is too bad, because Benjamin's early life is a wonderfully picaresque journey, especially a set of midnight liaisons with a Russian lady Tilda Swinton in an atmospheric hotel. Fincher observes all this with an entomologist's eye, cool and exacting, which keeps the material from getting all gooey. Still, the Hurricane Katrina framing story feels put-on, and the movie lets Benjamin slide offscreen during its later stages--curious indeed.--Robert Horton
Stills from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Click for larger image