Thursday, 12 November 2015

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)


[The last of the long delayed draft posts, this bust was prompted by a fantasy sequence from another movie, in which Ben Stiller imagines himself and Kristen Wiig enacting a confused scene from this movie, despite their not having seen it. You just know when comedians make a joke about not having seen a movie, there's something worth busting there ;)

Unfortunately, it's another example of a film that presents the problem of how best to refer to characters when they're portrayed by various actors, at different stages of their lives. On this occasion I've decided to fudge the answer, because the principals are so iconic, by performing an ultra-bust.]

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) is an American fantasy drama film directed by David Fincher, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.

In the end, a hospital bed-bound, former dancer mother, Cate Blanchett, gets distraction from an approaching hurricane and the end-of-life care she is receiving, by persuading her daughter to read to her from a hand written manuscript, stuffed full of postcards, letters and mementos, that recount what is either a very tall tale or the extraordinary life-history of her real father, Brad Pitt, a man the daughter once met briefly and who apparently lived his life growing younger.

Always on the periphery of landmark American events spanning the end of the Great War, to the devastation of hurricane Katrina, it is the Grim Reaper's ever-presence that overshadows Pitt's life, begun as a prematurely geriatric foundling, after his mother dies in childbirth, raised by a woman with the motto "you never know what's coming", amongst the residents of the elderly care home she runs, and ending with him shuffling off this mortal coil, despite the appearance of a perfectly healthy infant, in the very same home, some eighty years later, in the arms of his first love and eventual wife, Blanchett, who he met there as a "man-boy" when she was a girl, many years before.

It's hard not to read this allegorical muse on the fleeting nature of human existence, as one of a few, so far rather unconvincing attempts, on David Fincher's part, to prove that he is more than just a thrill-master par excellence.

Bookended by the story of a blind clockmaker (surly a reference to an argument against the existence of God) who constructs a municipal time-piece that runs backwards, strangely mirroring the inverted life of the eponymous hero, perhaps not since the Bible, has there been a narrative so packed with stuff that just doesn't make sense, even overlooking the story's central conceit of a man who ages in reverse, and seems strangely apart from his surrounding, despite award winning special effects and make-up. And it's not just the set that Pitt is detached from, perpetually out of step with the changing times around him.

Okay, Pitt does learn life lessons from a succession of colourful characters, including a womanising pygmy, a self-tattooed boozing tugboat captain, the loose-knickered wife of a British spy, and a seven-time victim of lightening strikes fellow care home resident. But none of them amount to much more that "life's short, make the most of it." And all that in just a minute over two and three quarter hours!

Clearly, however you care to slice it, what's coming is death!