Movie Review : The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
The Holidays: a self-appointed break at the end of every year for every human being. Or every privileged human being, whatever. Point is, it’s the moment where everyone watches the same weepy movies and irrationally question their life choices. I was fully expecting to rewatch Bill Murray’s Scrooged this year again and ask myself whether or not I was working too much, but I found myself a new sappy movie I hadn’t already seen instead: David Fincher’s Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And you know me. I love sappy with a loaded gun. Fincher lived up to the task once again with a sneaky dark and nuanced film that deserves its title of Holiday classic.
Everyone knows the story of Benjamin Button. Even I did, before even seeing it, but in case you’ve been living under a rock for a decade, here it is: Inspired by an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button tells the tale of a man (Brad Pitt) aging in reverse. He was born an old man and becomes younger with every minute, living counterclockwise to every other human being. That makes basic interaction like making friends, falling in love and… you know, actually find people that love you, quite harder than it should. This movie is more or less the life of Benjamin Button from A to Z, but it’s more complex and endearing than it seems.
Here’s the quirky premise of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: nothing lasts forever. Everything you ever earn. Everything you’re ever given will someday be taken away by the ruthless march of time. Nobody ever thinks about that because we, more or less, all get old and die at the same pace. But not Benjamin Button. Someone who goes through existence in the opposite direction than everyone else actually highlights the fact to people his age and older that their dynamic will eventually change and that the man they’ve learned to love will eventually disappear. It’s a dark reality of life most movies choose to ignore, but it’s coated in a sappy thesis: cherish every moment. And it works.
Another unusual (and perhaps accidental) wrinkle in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is that it highlights the similitudes between young children and elders: they’re dependent, have a tough time to communicate and don’t have complete control over their bodies. Except we’re programmed to love the former and dismiss the latter. Their condition is eerily similar, except that elders have (most times) complete self-awareness and sink into depression and isolation from the lack of love.If Benjamin Button’s condition forced him to mature before his time in his own, idiosyncratic way and become his own man, it reflects to the audience the cruelty of their own fate. Once again, simple but smart.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is definitely a Holiday movie, although it doesn’t directly deals with Christmas-y themes. That shouldn’t be surprising coming from someone like David Fincher, who doesn’t deal in wholesome feelings. It’s a simple, river-like (almost three hours-long) movie about an uncomfortable idea that most people refuse to acknowledge. That existence is a series of fleeting moment and that eventually, everything disappears: people, relationships, achievements, etc. It’ll leave you with a warm, bittersweet feeling, which is about the best possible feeling this movie can possibly give you. Existential despair is also a possibility.