The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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This film is develped from by a short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It tells of a man who is born tiny, but with the body of an 80-year old man. It is the turn of the 19th century in New Orleans. His mother dies and his father is caught in the act of trying to be rid of the monstrous looking child. Benjamin is left in an old people’s home, there he grows up and younger, meets the love of his life (Cate Blanchette) and it is there that he returns to die.

This is a beautifully wrought film; even stunning. There is one scene where the Cate Blanchette character performs a ballet and it took my breath away. And there is a tug boat captain with an accent (Scots?) that defies comprehension.

However, as much as some critics say this is a film about life and love, living and dying, grasping each moment and living it to the full, it was so painfully slow that it lost me after one hour. I lost the anticipation – and expectation – that I would be inspired.

At more than 3 hours, it does not get interesting until the last hour.

The film may well be a meditation on life, but I didn’t find that it drew me to hope in life after death; if anything the film’s ideology is deterministic and based on fate.

Do I sound grumpy about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? Well, I suppose I am. 

Benjamin says: “Life is defined by moments, even the ones we choose to miss.”  I didn’t miss the film’s 166 minutes, but I think I missed the point – and the reasons for all the hype.

Where are the editors, story editors, film editors, all kinds of editors, when you need them? Guys! Get a grip!

David Fincher, an excellent director, even one of my favorites despite his often violent subject matter, has created a masterpiece of sorts. Perhaps I need to see it again.

Yeah, that’ll be the day.

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Post script~

I have just returned from  Christmas Midnight Mass. During the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, I began thinking about Benjamin Button.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.

You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you at the harvest…. (Is 9:1-6)

The second reading was from Paul’s Letter to Titus:

Beloved: The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject worldly and godless ways and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope….” (2:11-14)

The Gospel was according to Luke, recounting the birth of Jesus

“… and there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord shone round about them….” (2:1-14)

It occurred to me that I was hearing God’s Word through some of the greatest and most beautiful poetry ever written, about the greatest story ever written, and that The Curious Tale of Benjamin Button, more than a meditation (which is a very demanding word), is a cinematic poem of life, love, and death to be savored.

As such, it is easier to “accept” the film into my artistic, spiritual universe.

Just a thought….

(It was still too long!)

2 Comments

  1. it was a little weird to see an old version of Brad Pitt’s face pasted onto a kid’s body, but i guess that’s why they call it a “curious case”

  2. Far be it from this novice reviewer to see things any differently than the reviewer par excellence, but I did stumble upon the idea that this film, with its length and message, allows me a parallel to my homily conclusion for this weekend. I wind up seeing how the disciples were told to “pack light” as a segue to inviting the parish to “invest 2:45 min” toward “into Great Silence” in the hope that it draws us closer into listening for the Lord’s whispers of inspiration to serve as the disciples did, ready or not. I have decided to use ole Brad Pitt as an opening salvo teamed with Nike’s “Just Do It” as the antithesis of our unwillingness to “pack light” and get on with serving the Lord. We’ll see if I confuse or enlighten the parish!


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