PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
In 2005, Daisy, an elderly woman, is on her deathbed in a New Orleans hospital. Daisy asks her daughter, Caroline, to read aloud from the diary of Benjamin Button. It begins with an introduction note written on April 4th 1985.
In 1918, Mr. Gateau, a blind New Orleans clockmaker, loses his son on the battlefields of France in World War I. As a way to deal with the grief, Gateau builds a large clock for the New Orleans train station, but fixes it so that the time goes in reverse. When asked why, Gateau states that maybe time will reverse and the men lost in the war—including his son—might come home again.
On the evening of November 11, 1918, a boy is born with the appearance and physical maladies of a very elderly man. The baby’s mother dies shortly after giving birth, and the father, Thomas Button, abandons the infant on the porch of a nursing home. Queenie and Mr. “Tizzy” Weathers, who work at the nursing home, find the baby, and Queenie decides to care for him as her own.
In 1925, Queenie and a 7-year old Benjamin attend church; he physically appears 77. Learning to walk, Ben declares that moment a miracle, as written in his diary; the priest has a sudden, fatal heart attack.
In November 1930, 12-year-old Benjamin, having exchanged a wheelchair for crutches, befriends six-year-old Daisy, whose grandmother lives in the nursing home. As Benjamin’s body grows younger, he accepts work on a tugboat. Benjamin also meets Thomas Button, who does not reveal that he is Benjamin’s father. In 1936, Benjamin leaves New Orleans with the tugboat crew for a long-term work engagement. He eventually finds himself in Murmansk, where he starts an affair with Elizabeth Abbott, wife of the British Trade Minister.
In 1941, while the tugboat crew is still in Russia, Japan attacks the U.S. at Pearl Harbor, thrusting America into World War II. Mike, the captain, volunteers the boat to be a ship in the U.S. Navy and the crew is assigned to scrap collection duty. During a patrol, the tugboat stumbles upon a sunken U.S. transport and the bodies of hundreds of American troops. While surveying the carnage, a German submarine surfaces. Knowing his duty, Mike steers the tugboat full speed towards the sub while a German gunner fires on the tugboat, killing most of the crew including Mike. The tugboat then rams the submarine, causing it to explode, sinking both vessels. The next day Benjamin and one other crew member are picked up by ships of the U.S. Navy.
In May 1945, Benjamin returns to New Orleans, and learns that 21-year-old Daisy has become a successful ballet dancer. Benjamin again crosses paths with Thomas Button, who, terminally ill, reveals that he is Benjamin’s father. Thomas wills Benjamin his possessions before he dies.
Daisy’s dance career is ended in Paris in 1957, when she is hit by a taxi cab and breaks her leg. When Benjamin goes to see her, Daisy is amazed at his youthful appearance, but frustrated at her own injuries; she tells him to stay out of her life. In 1962, Daisy returns to New Orleans and reunites with Benjamin. Now of comparable physical age, they fall in love and move in together.
Daisy gives birth to a girl, Caroline in 1968, when Benjamin’s 49. Believing he cannot be a father to his daughter due to his reverse aging, Benjamin sells his belongings and leaves the proceeds to Daisy and Caroline. He begins traveling the world in 1970 (as written on one of Caroline’s postcards), really in his early 50s but appearing to be in his early 30s, including going to India, and doing motorcycle work. Finally, Benjamin ends his travels in 1981, at age 63.
Appearing 21, Benjamin comes back to Daisy that same year. Now married, Daisy introduces him to her husband and daughter as a family friend. Daisy then visits Benjamin at his hotel, where they share their passion for each other. Daisy admits that he was right to leave; she could not have coped otherwise. After saying goodnight to her, Benjamin watches Daisy leave in a taxi from his window.
In 1991, widowed Daisy receives a phone call from social workers. They have found Benjamin — now apparently about 11 years old. When she arrives, they explain that he’d been living in a condemned building, and was recently taken to the hospital in failing health. They have contacted her because they found her name in his diary. The bewildered social workers also say he’s displaying early signs of dementia. Daisy moves into the nursing home where Benjamin grew up and takes care of him as he becomes increasingly younger until, physically, he becomes an infant once more. Daisy says to Caroline that in 2002, Gateau’s clock was moved into storage, replaced by a digital screen clock. In 2003, Benjamin dies in Daisy’s arms remembering who she was. Benjamin’s story now told, Daisy dies in her New Orleans hospital bed as Hurricane Katrina approaches, and the scene fades to the storage room in which Gateau’s clock is contained; the film ends with the clock still running backwards, as the room in which it is contained begins to flood
None of us are getting any younger, that’s just a sad fact of life. Imagine, though, what it must be like to live your life in reverse. I’m not quite sure I would care to see those around me grow ever so slowly older and eventually passing on. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button takes us through a journey filled with ups and downs, all the while we watch as Benjamin grows from an old man to young boy.
What is this about?
On the day that Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, elderly Daisy Williams (nee Fuller) is on her deathbed in a New Orleans hospital. At her side is her adult daughter, Caroline. Daisy asks Caroline to read to her aloud the diary of Daisy’s lifelong friend, Benjamin Button. Benjamin’s diary recounts his entire extraordinary life, the primary unusual aspect of which was his aging backwards, being diagnosed with several aging diseases at birth and thus given little chance of survival, but who does survive and gets younger with time. Abandoned by his biological father, Thomas Button, after Benjamin’s biological mother died in childbirth, Benjamin was raised by Queenie, a black woman and caregiver at a seniors home. Daisy’s grandmother was a resident at that home, which is where she first met Benjamin. Although separated through the years, Daisy and Benjamin remain in contact throughout their lives…
What did I like?
Process of aging. The makeup artists did masterful job of making Brad Pitt look old in the early parts of the film, and then they reversed the aging process for the latter parts (or just spliced in a few scenes from Meet Joe Black). They also make Cate Blanchett look quite a bit younger as well as aged Taraji P. Henson in her last scenes.
Ride. This film takes you for an emotional ride, that’s for sure. Not only do you feel sad for this woman who is on her deathbed in a hospital as Hurricane Katrina is about to make landfall, but the emotions of Benjamin as he goes through life experiencing love, tragedy, and what have you. Those that are apt to emotional outbursts might want to have a box of tissue handy when you watch this.
Similar, yet different. I’m sure many people are going to make a fuss about how similar this film is to two others. First, there is the Robin Williams’ flick Jack, where he plays a boy who ages four times faster than he should…another aging chid film. Second, there quite a few obvious similarities or nods to Forrest Gump, such as both being southern, working on a boat, being born on a signficant date in history. The way this film was going at points, I was half expecting him to end up sitting on a bench with a box of chocolates. That being said, these are all different films that have similarities, but should not really be compared and contrasted.
What didn’t I like?
Watch your step. When Benjamin is left on the doorstep, he is literally stepped on by Queenie and her beau. I’ve never stepped on a baby before, but it seems to me that a full grown man of what appears to be slightly athletic/muscular build coming down the stairs and stepping on a newborn babe would either crush the child or do some serious injury to it, especially if it has as brittle bones as an old person.
Accents. Brad Pitt should know better. I’ll get to him in a second. As someone who lives in Louisiana, just an hour away from New Orleans, as a matter of fact, I can’t ignore these accents. I’m not really sure who taught these people that folks down here talk like that, but that isn’t the way. The reason I say Brad Pitt should know better is because I seem to remember reading something that he and Angelina had bought a house down here. That would mean he gets a taste of the local culture eveyrday. Let us not forget that he was down here years ago, using the exact same sad accent, in Interview with a Vampire. He may have become a better actor since then, but his accent is as sad and wooden as ever.
Length and waste. At nearly 3 hours, this film is way too long for its own good. Yes, it is one of those artsy-fartsy films and all, but still….geesh! Julia Ormond is a very fine and talented actress. I don’t blame them for getting her involved in the project. However, I can’t help but wonder why it is that they felt the need to cast her in such a medial role, when they really could have just picked up some random chick from down Bourbon St. and she would have worked just as well.
A little bit more serious and dramatic that films I tend to go for, I found myself actually really enjoying The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Great acting, setting, visual effects, and a story that sucks you in make this a must-see. No wonder it was nominated for all those awards. I highly recommend this one as a film to see before you die.
4 1/2 out 5 stars