Chances are if you are reading this then you already know what this might probably entail. Spoilers!!!

Literally, Benjamin Button is about a guy who's born old and ages backwards, until he reaches childhood and then dies. But in a larger sense, David Fincher's movie is about deja vu. It feels very much like a dozen other movies you've seen before. And it seems to be saying that familiarity is underrated and nostalgia is renewal, by looking at the life of someone whose past is always in front of him.


In particular, Benjamin Button will remind you a lot of Forrest Gump, another literary adaptation by the same screenwriter, Eric Roth. It's got the same sort of heartwarming, quirky feeling, and the protagonist lives through a nice selection of big historical moments. (Although he doesn't meet any famous personages.) Pretty much every situation that Benjamin Button gets himself into will feel cozily familiar, and most of the characters he meets are ones you've seen before. But because he's living backwards, he outlives people who seem to be his age or younger. And the movie seems to be saying, "Take another look at these familiar situations and archetypes, because they won't last forever, and you'll miss them when they're gone."



Here's the story, in a nutshell: Benjamin Button is born old, and his father abandons him. He's rescued by Queenie,a good-hearted African American woman, who devotes herself to him. Luckily, she works in an old-people's home, where he fits right in with the cast of quirky characters. (One of these characters has a running gag that's jaw-snappingly funny.) He meets a little girl, Daisy, and they become playmates. Later, he goes off to sea on a tugboat, and then fights in World War II. And sleeps with Tilda Swinton. Then he comes home and courts Daisy, who's too busy being a fancy dancer. They finally get together, and are rapturously happy, but Benjamin worries his impending youth will ruin everything. (It does.)



There's also a frame story, where Daisy is on her death bed (as Hurricane Katrina looms) and she gets her daughter to read Benjamin's memoir to her. That stuff is like what I imagine The Notebook would be like.


There's nothing wrong with any of it, and it's all quite skillfully executed. Except that Cate Blanchett, as Daisy, and Brad Pitt, as Benjamin, have very little chemistry, and Pitt's performance in general is somewhere between understated and vacant. (I really only like Pitt when he's doing manic nutjob, to be honest.) But apart from that problem, the performances are all great, and some of them are terrific. Tilda Swinton is never anything but amazing, for example.


The movie is three hours long, and there are a few sequences that feel beyond padded. (In one sequence, in particular, the narrator drones that if A, B, C, or D had happened differently, then E wouldn't have happened. But A, B, C, and D did actually happen the way they did, so E happened as well. I felt like I was being spoon-fed by an arthritic.) To some extent, the movie's slowness is a function of its mission: to show us that time is passing, that as Benjamin Button sheds his years, he's still racing towards a grave like the rest of us.





It didn't feel like much of a love story to me, but maybe I'm too cynical.




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