December 29, 2008
You won't find a stranger movie this year than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. After all, you only have a couple of days left.
Some years ago I read a little book of F. Scott Fitzgerald's called Stories from the Jazz Age, and all I remember about it is the title of the book--which coined a term often used to describe the 1920s--and a strange story about a man who was born old, literally, and aged backward for the rest of his life. A decidedly curious tale, I didn't particularly like it, but I never got the concept out of my mind. Here it has turned up, revamped into a luscious film and enhanced by plot additions, elegant art direction, costumes, authentically mystical New Orleans settings, and irresistibly attractive actors.
I met my 14-year-old grandson Elias at Port Authority yesterday with the idea in mind that we might catch a flick (actually anticipating seeing Valkyrie. He told me he wasn't interested in that one--his current prejudice is against the Scientologist bent of the leading man--and I couldn't persuade him to try Frost/Nixon or Doubt, so we settled on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and settled in for a long afternoon of escape.)
The New Orleans backdrop is appropriate for the mythical quality of the movie. Without giving you any more of the plot, I will say that the beauty of the the film is in its quiet seduction into a world where odd things happen and time moves backward as it advances. The picture above shows the protagonist at the moment he is in his prime and catches the lady when she is at the same place in time. We've seen him looking wizened and ancient when we know he is really an adolescent, and we've experienced the sensations of life running in reverse to the point where we accept the alternate reality and anticipate it. So romantic, the film caused me to wonder whether it could be classified as a chick flick, but with its complex story and inevitably unsettling ending, I decided not. It has much more range than that. It will appeal to a segment of the vast viewing audience, male and female, who are capable of suspending disbelief and entering a world of true mystery and beauty--in spite of the strangeness of that world.
One last note. Brad Pitt narrates with the perfect cadence of New Orleans. His accent has that trace of southern-U.S combined with the quirk of some port cities, especially New Orleans. You may wonder why he says "uh-athe" for earth, something like "wake" for work, and "chache" for church. It only tells us that he's spent enough time listening to people in New Orleans to know how they sound.