The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a bildungsroman (that’s right, I’ve been to COLLEGE) about a man named Benjamin Button whose case is very curious. He is born as an old man, and as he ages he gets younger and younger, until he turns into a baby and dies. That’s pretty much it, but imagine that it took three hours to read that sentence. Oh sure, he meets some characters along the way, I guess, and he eventually falls in love with Cate Blanchett. But mostly his life is actually pretty straight forward, it just gets kind of weird around the ends. Oh, and the whole thing is told through a journal that Benjamin Button wrote for his daughter, which she reads aloud to a dying Cate Blanchett in the hospital during a hurricane. So it’s basically The Notebook, but with a reverse-aging man-baby. Perfect.
Here is the curious case of why this movie stinks:
AHHHHHH, WHAT IS THIS THING?!
So, Benjamin Button was born in New Orleans at the end of World War I and he was a baby but he kind of looked like an old man, and he had all kinds of old man problems, so his dad tried to throw him in the river but that didn’t work so his dad left him at a retirement home with a black woman who raised him as her own. Eventually he got a wheel chair! Neat! And then he started working on a boat. OK! And then he fell in love with a nine-year-old. Yikes! Eventually he went to Russia. Sure! And he fell in love with Tilda Swinton for awhile. Tilda Swinton! But then it was World War II and he had to go do that instead. Careful! A bunch of people died. And then he went home. And he finally met his real dad. And his real dad was like, “I’m sorry I tried to throw you in the river, here is my button factory.” THIS MOVIE HAS ACTUAL BUTTONS IN IT.
Eventually Brad Pitt stops being an ugly old man and starts being BRAD PITT. Now we are talking! And Cate Blanchett is a dancer, but she gets hit by a car in Paris. Whoops! Eventually she comes back to America and falls in love with Brad Pitt (WHO WOULDN’T?) and they sell the button factory (I REPEAT: THIS MOVIE HAS ACTUAL BUTTONS IN IT) and they buy a duplex. But now Cate Blanchett is pregnant and Brad Pitt is nervous Forest Gump-style that the baby is going to be an old woman. Cate Blanchett don’t care because of how love works. But Brad Pitt knows that he can’t raise a child when he is a child himself soon, so he goes to India. Wait, India? Well, he goes to India. And then he turns into a fucking baby and dies.
Now look, this is no the Worst Movie of All Time (although it might be the LONGEST), and David Fincher is a really good director, and Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are good actresses, so let’s just chalk this up as a brave, ambitious failure. But make no mistake: it is a failure. Big time.
First of all, BENJAMIN BUTTON’S CASE IS NOT EVEN THAT CURIOUS. He does all the things normal people do. He learns how to walk when he is little. He loses his virginity. He gets a job. He falls in love and has a kid. I’ll admit that it is kind of curious casewise when he looks like an old man baby, and it is definitely a very curious case indeed when he turns into a fucking baby right before dying. But it’s almost SPOOKY how normal his life is for the most part. And if we could just talk about him turning into a goddamned baby before he dies: what? I mean, please, movie, you are already taxing my willful suspension of disbelief to its limits as it is, but if he is born as a baby sized old man, then it only follows, LOGICALLY, that he should die as a man-sized baby. None of this shit:
But lots of this shit:
Now, at its heart, the movie is supposed to be a love story. Aww! Who doesn’t love a nice love story? No one doesn’t love a nice love story. The problem is that this love story: AH NOT AH SO NICE. The thing is, and this is true throughout most of the movie, if you were to write this story down, it could be interesting and touching and curious. But when you put it on film it just gets real creepy real fast. For example:
Uhhhh. Yikes? I mean, Benjamin Button is supposed to only be, like, 12 at this point, so it makes sense that he likes this little girl. The problem is that he sure does not look 12! And it is one thing when it is a weird CGI homunculus buried under 17 pounds of make up, but later, when he finally leaves home at the age of “17,” he is actually just Brad Pitt. Officers!
To make matters even more complicated, Brad Pitt, now in his “20s,” goes to Russia and falls in love with Tilda Swinton.
OK, but, is he in love with young people his own “age” or is he in love with old people who look his age? I’m not saying that 20-year-old men can’t fall for older women, we all know that’s not true…
But it was already pretty gross when he was a young man who looked like an old man ogling a little girl, and now that he is a young man who looks like an old man and acts like an old man, it is super grosser. The thing that was the most disappointing about the movie, though, was the fact that it didn’t really deal with the curiosity behind Benjamin’s case in any meaningful way. Aging and dying are things that everyone deals with (Duh Aficionado Magazine: The Health Issue) and spends a fair amount of time at least thinking about if not struggling with, and yet this movie pretty much glosses over the whole thing. “What would it be like to enjoy the fruits of youth when you had the wisdom of an adult?” NO QUESTIONS! Well, one question is answered: if you were to age in reverse, would you have a bunch of fake-looking zits on your face in your “golden years”? Answer: you betcha.
And again, all of this (well, maybe not the zits, but almost all of this) could be interesting and beautiful in a novel. But when the aging Benjamin Button develops a case of dementia and no longer remembers his lover, what in prose might have been a delicate examination of the painful emotional toll of a life nearing its end, becomes actual comedy.
HAHAHAHHAHHA. Why does he have dementia, anyway? Wasn’t he born as an old man with old man health problems? So shouldn’t he die as a giant baby with baby problems? My apologies to this movie for thinking about it and pretending like it should have any kind of consistent internal logic. I will stop asking so many questions and start thinking about how handsome Brad Pitt is.
Nice try, Brad Pitt. I still remember that this movie was way too long and way too boring and way too confused and no amount of puppy dog eyes are going to chan–HI, BRAD PITT!