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Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - My Review

I wanted to see this movie since I saw a preview for it, which I believe was last summer. But when it came out Christmas Day, I was in a small Florida town about 45 miles away from the nearest theater. Then I had a visitor in town the next week, plus I was still healing from surgery and had another visitor stay a couple of different times and before you knew it, it was February!

This movie is really, really good. It is a big on the long side (2 hrs; 45 min) but it held my attention the entire time - even though I knew how it would end, I was curious as to how it would play out.

It is based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald (which I didn't know until the credits). It starts out with an old woman laying in a New Orleans hospital bed, presumably dying from cancer. Her daughter is with her and it seems as though their relationship is a bit strained. Also, the TV in the room is reporting the weather and showing that Hurricane Katrina is in the gulf, appears to be headed toward them. But the mom and daughter don't give very much attention. I don't know why they put this in the movie - it just seemed pointless to me and had nothing to do with the story. Then again, I believe the movie was being filmed right about the time or shortly after Katrina so I guess it was very fresh on the minds of the film-makers and actors - it just didn't seem to fit in with the movie to me though - but perhaps it was just to put a marker on the time period we were watching the old woman and daughter.

The old woman tells her daughter a story about a clock makers, whose son died in WWI, he grieved grately and built a clock that ran backwards in hopes that it would bring back all the young men, including his son, that died. She then asks her daughter, Caroline, to read her a diary that she has in her room. The diary used to belong to Benjamin Button.

Caroline begins reading and her voice dissolves into Benjamin's - wonderfully acted by Brad Pitt. Much of the movie is like this - told in his narration. That, along with the fact that the story takes us through lots of history (end of WWI until 2005) made the movie sort of remind me of Forrest Gump (in the way the movie was told, anyway).

Benjamin on the day that WWI ended, his mom died in childbirth and the distraught dad freaked out when he saw this old, strange wrinkly baby that looked like a monster - so he left the baby on the steps of an "old folks" home where the baby is found by Queenie, a young and good-hearted African American caretaker. She wants a baby, has prayed for one and here God left one for her. She feels bad for him because of the way he looks and thinks that no one but her would love a child like that. She has a doctor check him out and the doctor tells her that he has the body of an 80 year old - arthritis, cataracts, etc and only has weeks or days to live. She feels like he needs love even more.

Time goes by and before we know it, Benjamin is an adult but and old man in a wheel chair. He plays with little toy soldiers and Queenie knows his behavior is because he is only 7 but others think he is a senile old man. She doesn't question anything about his age, she just raises him and loves him and he fits right in with all the other senior citizens living in the home. As Benjamin grows older (well, younger), he meets Daisy one day at the home. Her grandmother is coming to live at the home where Benjamin lives. Daisy knows right away that Benjamin is special, she knows somehow that he is a kid and they become fast friends. Of course the other seniors think Benjamin is some kind of sick-o hanging around this pretty little red-haired girl. But Queenie tries to explain that people will never understand, he will always be different.

A time eventually comes when Benjamin, now biologically 17, decides it is time to leave the nest and gets a job on a tug boat (also reminded me Forrest Gump - since he worked on a shrimp boat). He works on the boat and he and the captain become good friends. They travel all over the world and live in Russia for a while. He falls in love and has a long relationship that eventually ends. They go to the shores of Japan during WWII knowing they would have work there and they end up getting attacked and the captian and some of the crew die.

During this time, we also see that Daisy has became quite a famous ballerina. Benjamin even shows up to one of her performances. She and her fellow dancers have plans after the show, he comes along but he soon realizes he does not fit in with her friends and her life and he walks out, she follows him and says she can't just drop her life because he showed up. They don't see each other for years later, until she is hit by a car and he rushes to her bed-side. Her leg is shattered and she will walk again, but will never dance again - she pushes him away and he leaves her once again.

When Benjamin is biologically in his mid-to-late-30s, he moves back home for a while. He strikes up a friendship with a man who gives him a lift home one night (Benjamin doesn't know, but we know that this man is really his father). One day, the lovely Daisy shows up to visit her grandmother and who does she see but a younger, handsome Benjamin. They re-connect and a relationship ensues.

Now it is the 1960s, Daisy takes a job as a ballet instructor and loves it. They live happily together on little money but much love in a small apt. Time finally catches them up - Benjamin is 42 and Daisy is 45 - they are almost the same age - Daisy reveals she is pregnant (which of course we knew was coming eventually). The story switches back to current day and Caroline is upset with her mother that this is how she chose to tell her that the man that raised her, isn't her father, but Benjamin is. The older Daisy continues to grow weaker and asks Caroline to keep reading.

After Caroline is born, Benjamin (growing younger each day - looks to be in his early 30s/late 20s) realizes that eventually he will become a child and knows that Daisy can't take care of him and Caroline too - he knows that he won't be able to take care of Caroline. He says she needs a father, not a playmate. Daisy knows he is right but tries to get him to stay, saying she can take care of them both. But he leaves and she doesn't stop him - knowing it what he needs to do.

Oh, I failed to mention that during that time, Benjamin continues to occassionally meet his old friend that gave him a ride home that night. His father confesses who he is. Benjamin forgives him (because he said he had the best mother - Queenie - in the world). Benjamin cares for his sick and dying father and eventually buries him. His father left Benjamin the house and he eventually sells it along with its contents. He also sells a lake house that his father owned.

Daisy eventually marries and this man loves and raises Caroline as his own. When Benjamin looks to be about 15 or 17, he shows up at the ballet studio and meets 9 year old Caroline, who doesn't know who he is. Daisy and Benjamin talk for a brief while and he leaves again.

More time goes by and one day Daisy gets word that a young boy (who they think is about 7) shows up at the senior home. Although Queenie died years before, some of the staff still remain and they know who he is. Benjamin has dementia - he doesn't remember his life, he doesn't remember Daisy, he is confused and ill. Since Caroline is a grown woman now and isn't needed by Daisy, Daisy (now in her mid-to-late 60s) moves into the Senior home to care for him. We see her bathing a young 5 year old, walking on a sidewalk with a 2 year old, and later feeding a baby, who falls asleep in her arms one day, never to wake back up.

Time goes back to present day, and old Daisy gets worse and Caroline rushes out to get the nurse, just then - Hurricane Katrina hits land. We see the water rush into a basement and cover and old aged clock, sitting on the floor now and still running backwards.

Although I haven't seen the other Oscar nominated best actors, I would love to see Brad Pitt win this one. I think he deserves it! Cate Blanchett was wonderful too. The movie was very good and wonderful made. I'd give it 4 1/2 stars.
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