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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) Review: Enigmatic Reversal!

Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button posing in front of a mirror, showcasing his muscular biceps.

We are born, we live, and we die. And while we live, we age. But what if we were to lose our age as we live? What if we grew younger with time?

The Reverse Aging Phenomenon

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a 2008 drama and romance film, adapted from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 short story. Renowned director David Fincher, known for his works such as “Seven,” “Fight Club,” “Gone Girl,” and “Zodiac,” helms the film, while the screenplay is penned by Oscar-winning writer Eric Roth. Starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, the film received numerous award nominations and accolades, including recognition at the Academy Awards. However, despite being nominated in 13 categories, it only managed to secure three technical awards.

The film narrates the peculiar tale of Benjamin Button, who is born old and wrinkled but ages backward as the years go by. The story begins as Hurricane Katrina approaches, with Daisy lying on her deathbed in a New Orleans hospital, reading Benjamin Button’s diary to her daughter, Caroline.

Benjamin is born to a mother who dies during childbirth, and unlike everyone else, he enters the world as an elderly baby at the age of 80. His father leaves him on the steps of a nursing home, marking the beginning of his life’s journey. The film captures Benjamin’s life through a series of episodic leaps, occasionally intertwining with Daisy’s state on her deathbed. Essentially, the film tells Benjamin’s life story through the lens of his love for Daisy.

Fincher adopts a biographical film approach with flashback scenes, intending to depict the various stages of Benjamin Button’s life, starting from his elderly birth and progressing towards youthfulness. In truth, Benjamin’s spirit ages like everyone else’s. However, his physical existence operates in reverse. Throughout his extraordinary existence, Benjamin Button experiences the peculiarities of life because he is an old man in the eyes of others. His first drink, first intimate encounter, first love, and first job all unfold in inverse proportion to his physical appearance.

Love, Loss, and Second Chances

If we delve into the film a little deeper, Benjamin is raised by Queenie, who portrays a remarkable mother figure. As Benjamin grows up, he forms a friendship with Daisy, who happens to be the same age as him and resides in the nursing home. Eventually, this bond evolves into a romantic relationship as they age. However, in his youthful phase, Benjamin bids farewell to return to working on tugboats. At this point, Benjamin is actually 19 years old, but he appears to be in his 60s. Daisy urges him to write letters regularly while he is away, and Benjamin dutifully keeps her informed of his experiences. Through postcards, he shares every detail with Daisy, even exclaiming “I fell in love!”

Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button lying on the bed, hugging a pillow and smiling while Cate Blanchett as Daisy lovingly gazes at him.

After several years of work, Benjamin returns home and goes out for a meal with Daisy. Their encounter takes an uneasy turn when Benjamin rejects Daisy’s advances. They finish their meal, and unexpectedly, Thomas Button (Benjamin’s biological father), who has not shown any remorse throughout the film, suddenly appears and reveals his identity to Benjamin before promptly passing away. Personally, I found this scene to be the most unnecessary. For it to be justified, we needed glimpses into Thomas Button’s life, along with signs of remorse.

Shortly after, the lovers, bound by an enduring love, reunite once again. Benjamin proposes to Daisy, but she confesses that she is already in a relationship. Yet, it is not difficult to discern that Daisy’s heart still longs for Benjamin. Soon after, Benjamin rushes to visit Daisy, who has been involved in a car accident. However, he is met with a cold reception, resulting in another bitter farewell. Daisy’s behavior stems from not wanting to appear in her current state in front of Benjamin, as his handsome appearance accentuates her insecurities.

When Benjamin returns home once more, he is actually 44 years old but appears to be 41. He embarks on a genuine relationship with Daisy, who expresses her desire to have a child. Benjamin unintentionally fulfills her wish, and after Caroline’s first birthday, he sells all his possessions, leaving everything behind for the sake of their daughter. Benjamin returns to the United States and visits Daisy. During this visit, he encounters his 12-year-old daughter Caroline and Daisy’s new husband for the first time. That night, Daisy visits Benjamin in his hotel room, marking the final evening where the lovers see each other as adults. Upon receiving a phone call, Daisy, whose husband has passed away, visits the nursing home where Benjamin grew up in New Orleans. At this point, Benjamin, appearing as a 13-year-old, has lost his memory and regresses to childlike behavior. Daisy, then 67 years old, begins visiting Benjamin every day, becoming a mother figure as Benjamin continues to shrink in size. Eventually, when Benjamin is 85 years old but in the form of a baby, he passes away in the arms of 80-year-old Daisy. Daisy herself succumbs to her mortality at the age of 82 in the hospital.

The film focuses on the love between Benjamin and Daisy at different stages of their lives. It presents a compelling premise, which could have been explored further by shedding light on the lives of secondary characters. While the film starts off well and showcases excellent performances, it should not have solely relied on the theme of love. Additionally, I was surprised by the lack of emphasis on Benjamin’s birth. How does one come into existence in such a manner? What kind of existence is this? This unique condition is not given much thought. On the other hand, the changing atmosphere, visuals, and Benjamin’s process of rejuvenation are excellently portrayed. The film is flawless in terms of technical aspects and editing. Although the ending is somewhat predictable, the film still managed to captivate me, even though it had the potential to be even better. It may not be among my favorites, but I appreciated the attempt to extract its messages and enjoyed the overall experience.

At its core, this film revolves around “life,” offering an opportunity for introspection. While highlighting the importance of savoring life without overthinking, it also emphasizes the significance of how we live, rather than the direction in which we age. Regardless of our age, let us strive to make the most of everything.

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Last modified: July 3, 2023