I think Hollywood has made some New Year’s resolutions. I think it finally heard our cries, heard our rants and our raves, and felt the buttered popcorn that we hurled with abhorrence at the screen.
Friends and fellow movie-goers, I believe Hollywood has seen the fading cinematic light and vowed to make it burn bright again. With films like “Gran Torino,” “Valkyrie,” “The Reader,” “Revolutionary Road,” and “The Soloist” on our soon-to-do lists, 2009 should indeed be a great year.
So sit back, put your feet up (though not on the chair in front of you as it is a no-no in the theater, trust me), and enjoy the view.
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is the new year’s first must-see. Brad Pitt plays Benjamin, a baby born as an 80-year-old man on the last day of World War I in New Orleans. His body tiny but withered, his bones gnarled with arthritis and his eyes clouded with cataracts, his biological father places the hideous monster on the doorstep of a rest home for the elderly. Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), proprietor of the rest home, finds him and takes him in. She names him Benjamin.
Having been told by doctors that death would come for him any day, Benjamin’s years at the rest home see him grow stronger, straighter and younger. His hair grows thicker, darker, his eyes brighter and his hearing clearer. He is an anomaly with a quiet disposition and a naive heart.
Young Daisy (Elle Fanning, younger sister of Dakota) comes to the rest home often to visit her grandmother, and develops a kinship with the odd Benjamin. She recognizes his inner childishness, and overlooks his physical liabilities to become his best friend. But as Benjamin grows younger, his curiosity about the world around him grows deeper.
He meets tugboat captain Mike (Jared Harris) and is soon exposed to the very adult world of work, alcohol, sex, love and adventure. His seafaring ways land him in Russia, where he had an affair with the wife of a spy, Elizabeth Abbott (Tilda Swinton). He rams a U-boat in World War II. He meets, forgives and buries his father Thomas Button. He is strong and wise and becoming the man he was born to be, and all the while he thinks of Daisy.
But Daisy (Cate Blanchett) is now an accomplished dancer living in New York City, where life is to be lived with freedom and where time is only a word. An accident in Paris brings an end to her career, and the time has finally come for Benjamin and Daisy to be together.
I shouldn’t tell you any more. I’d like to — believe me — I could go on for days about this movie, but I’m running out of column and I suppose I should leave a little for suspense’s sake. But go. Go see this incredible story for yourselves.
To address the specific components of the film: The acting is phenomenal. Cate Blanchett is mesmerizing and Brad Pitt is Brad Pitt, enough said. But the surprise here is Henson as Queenie. You’ll be seeing her face again, and it just may be at a certain awards ceremony. Swinton is as wonderful as usual, and director David Fincher should pat himself on the back and polish up his shoes for a potential walk across the stage. Have I mentioned that I like this film a lot? Even composer Alexandre Desplat needs recognition here. His musical scores lulled the viewer into this fairy tale and demands that we be a part of it.
Very loosely based on a 1921 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is, to put simply, a great story. It’s one of those what-if stories that one could imagine daydreaming about on a summer day while lying on green grass with a sour weed dangling from the corners of our mouths. It’s different. It’s interesting. It’s magical.
But it’s long. Wear your comfy pants with the elastic waistband and take a potty break before you choose your seat; you’re getting your money’s worth out of this one.
Rated PG-13 for brief war violence, sexual content, language and smoking, and running at a very necessary 2 hours and 48 minutes, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” scores big in the new year with 4 1/2 bags of popcorn. Cheers to 2009!
— Kammeron Polverari writes a movie review for The Robesonian every other Sunday.