Thursday, January 01, 2009
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a film that makes you think about life and the passage of time, about age, and about opportunities taken and missed. Having read the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story on which this film was based, I nominate it for Best Adaptation. Writer Eric Roth has taken a creative short story and fleshed it out into something much more profound, a poignant life/love story offering philosophical insights. Where Fitzgerald executed the thought experiment of what it would be like to live a life backwards, Roth added thoughtful dimensions, such as what a character would be like who had been raised among old people. The film succeeds on multiple levels. The story reminded me of Titanic, all in a good way: the fateful romance, the epic sweep, the poignant carpe diem affirmation of life in the face of loss, the framing story of a woman looking back on her life at the end. Brad Pitt is remarkable in a role than spans seven decades, projecting youth from an old body and maturity from a young one, all with the quiet equanimity of someone who was both literally and figuratively "born old". And he manages to make it all look natural despite what must be a ton of make-up. (This will be a shoe-in for Best Make-Up Oscar.) Likewise Cate Blanchett, who spans many decades herself in this film with feisty grace. The epic sweep of the story is lushly filmed, beautifully depicting New Orleans, New York, Paris, Murmansk, and the WWII Pacific theatre, through various decades, evocatively capturing each period. The fatalistic symbolism borders on preciousness in just one or two moments of the film (the hummingbirds and the kaleidoscope of coincidence with the taxi in Paris), but in other parts (the English channel swimmer, the preacher's death, the lightning strikes) the Forrest Gump serendipity was perfectly charming. I can't think of a more appropriate film to have seen on New Year's Day, as we look back on the year past and forward to the year to come.