“Button” Shows That David Fincher Won’t Let You Down
David Fincher has finally made a movie that has reached a mass audience. The beauty of this is that Fincher hasn’t compromised a single thing and has essentially fooled the moviegoer into thinking this is an epic love story. This movie is just as melancholy and dark as Fincher’s previous work. It just isn’t as in your face and obvious as say…“Fight Club”.
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is told through flashbacks as a woman named Caroline (Julia Ormond) reads a memoir to her bed-ridden, dying mother, Daisy (Cate Blanchett). This is taking place at a New Orleans hospital as Hurricane Katrina rages outside. The memoir was written by Benjamin (Brad Pitt), who states that he “was born under unusual circumstances”.
Those unusual circumstances, as I’m sure you are aware, are that he was born with all the ailments of an elderly man. He is a baby, but he is wrinkled, can’t see, can’t hear, and his bones are brittle. His mother dies during child birth and his father (Jason Flemyng), in a fit of rage and fear, leaves the baby on the steps of an old folks home. From there, Benjamin is looked after by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), who also is the caretaker of the home.
We see Benjamin age in reverse at the old folks home. It’s an amazing sight to see Brad Pitt’s face on the body of a small, old looking man. His facial expressions and voice are pitch perfect. The effects used here are pretty groundbreaking and sure to win numerous technical Oscars.
Eventually, Benjamin meets Daisy. Of course, she is only seven or eight years old. While Benjamin is the same age, he has the body of an old man. They become friends and, as they both age, fall in love.
I will firmly stand by my previous statement that this movie is as dark as Fincher’s other movies. The only difference is that “Button” is much more subtle than the others. This movie is about the nature of life and death. It’s about growing old and what that means to your loved ones. This is an epic morality tale told with amazing detail.
Cate Blanchett’s Daisy doesn’t immediately fall into Benjamin’s arms. She behaves like a 20-year old would and pushes him away numerous times. Blanchett isn’t afraid to make you dislike Daisy a bit and it makes their inevitable reunion that much sweeter.
There aren’t many scenes without Brad Pitt and he carries the movie on his shoulders. Not once does he have an epiphany or that cliched moment in which life suddenly makes sense. Pitt plays Benjamin not as a wide-eyed Southerner who is in awe by his surroundings, but as a man who quietly takes everything in and rolls with what happens. So often, in epic tales like this one, there is a tendency for a showy performance but Pitt doesn’t over-emote once in this movie. It’s a calm, understated performance and Pitt should be commended for it.
For how great Pitt and Blanchett are, this movie completely belongs to David Fincher. While I still consider “Zodiac” to be his masterwork, this is a very close second. It’s the most character rich movie he has ever made and, as usual, the detail is second to none. He has made a very dark movie that is completely grounded in reality, even with the fantasy element of Benjamin Button’s “unusual circumstance”.
There is a lot of talk comparing this movie to “Forrest Gump”. Don’t believe it. This movie is dark, moody, methodical, and very sad. Oddly enough, throughout all its sadness, I left the movie feeling very uplifted. I have finally realized why I felt that way. This movie doesn’t romanticize life. There are tragedies, there are triumphs. You will have great friends and you will lose them. Your loved ones will be there every day, then before you know it, they will be gone. Somehow, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” made me realize that it’s just a part of life and those things are all okay.