Growing old in a body increasingly unable to do what it once found so easy when youthful and agile is not a problem for Benjamin Button: the older he gets, the younger his body grows. Born a overtly wrinkly baby with cataracts and other degenerative diseases, he is abandoned by his parents on the stairs of care home. There he is raised alongside those who are seeing out the last years of their lives, and Button soon finds he is at odds with the people surrounding him except one young girl who keeps appearing in his life.
Nominated for nine Oscars and a winner of three, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a whimsical story that is solidly efficient rather than startlingly spectacular. Unlike Fincher’s previous collaborations with Bread Pitt, namely Se7en and Fight Club, which explored a dark region of the human psyche, here Pitt takes centre stage in a charming tale of growing old, backwards. As Button, he starts the tale as a young boy in mind which in many ways fit the fragile body he is born into: sat in a wheelchair he struggles to comprehend what goes on around him in the same way as the elderly are slowly losing touch with the world. However, his increasing youthfulness soon means he gets restless living with people at the opposite ends of their lives, and meeting a certain young girl, Daisy (Cate Blanchett), who ignites a side of life all around him lost long ago: love.
It is impossible not to be charmed by Button’s life story.
Essentially both a fable and a love story, Benjamin Button is a film triumphant in its subtle visual effects which mirror the joys of the film: there is no one moment of greatness or sudden realisation of how well composed this film is, rather it touches your heart and brings a warm glow. Pitt puts in a dramatic performance by embracing the character of Button from the beginning and though his good looks bring a sickly centre to the moment when he and Daisy finally get together midway through the film, by its close Fincher has reclaimed the feel good factor. Fincher knows how to get the best from Pitt, again teasing out his most talented side. Blanchett doesn’t get a whole lot to do in the story told via a flashback starting in the 1920s, in the present she gets the elderly make-up treatment and rivals Pitt’s impressive early scenes.
Benjamin Button’s story includes many acts of being in the right place at the right time, including finding himself working on a boat whose captain takes a shine to him and then being part of a triumphant tactical moment during World War II, and it might be claimed his live must be charmed — the sun seems to shine almost constantly on this simple soul. Yet, there seems to be a simple enjoyment of behind it all, in much the same way as Benjamin Button often seeks out simple solutions to his problems. David Fincher may have made his name as a director making harsh, dark and foreboding movies but here he seems keen to show there is a softer side to life and it is impossible not to be charmed by Button’s life story.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is available to own on DVD and Blu-ray now.