Satisfying My Curiosity on Benjamin Button’s Case

A man aging backwards. A woman aging normally. When their ages meet midway and then start to drift away, will age still NOT matter?

I just watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button last night, and it depressed me. My depression is summarized above, by that irony of Benjamin’s (Brad Pitt) life as opposed to others’. However, there are significant scenes I’d like to point out, those I have fondly remembered during the development of the film’s plot.

I liked the first part of the movie. It started with a bedridden Daisy (Cate Blanchett) and her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) beside her in a New Orleans hopsital, the plot set in August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina is starting its waves of destruction. Daisy tells Caroline the story of Monsieur Gateau (Elias Koteas), a blind clockmaker tasked to create a clock for the New Orleans train station. During his work on the clock, his son went and fought in the World War I, and eventually died. Gateau, upon hearing this, continued working on the clock, but with a goal different than what he was commissioned. On the unveiling of the clock, people were shocked upon seeing the clock running backwards, which Gateau intentionally designed, hoping to bring those who died in the war back, including his son.

I learned to love the character Queenie (Taraji Henson), the kind and faithful lady who accepted and adopted and even gave the name Benjamin Button to our movie’s lead character. I used the word accepted becaue Benjamin’s father, Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng), rejected him since birth for having features, limiting physical form rather, of an 85-year-old man for a baby. It could have been Queenie’s inability to concieve that made her accept Benjamin as is, but her defending little Benjamin’s life against the protests of her husband Tizzy (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) was simply and purely maternal. Reminds me of my mother.

The portrayal of Benjamin’s childhood was good: an old man with the brain of a toddler. The childish acting (or the slight lack of it) made it believable as Benjamin was born with the physical limitations of a dying man in his mid-80′s. That and the fact that he grew in a nursing home for the aged made him a very welcoming and charming young (old) man. No wonder little Daisy (Elle Fanning) liked him, noticing “something odd” about Benjamin.

Also, Benjamin’s working on a tugboat was inspiring and pitiful at the same time. Inspiring because Benjamin was always full of hope, that working for money despite physical limits sounded like a good idea to him. Pitiful, on the other hand, because people treated him like an old man since that was what he appeared to be. Good thing Captain Mike (Jarred Harris) didn’t, though, bringing Benjamin to brothels and bars, introducing him to the life he would soon be living, after a decade or two. This was also when Benjamin met Thomas for the first time, without knowing that that businessman was his father.

I sort of hated the part when Benjamin fell in love with a married woman named Elizabeth Abbott (Tilda Swinton), for it looked more like a fling to me since Benjamin and Daisy had a “thing” back then. Nightly, Elizabeth would sneak out from her sleeping husband to meet Benjamin and, well, talk. It ended suddenly the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, when Elizabeth unexpectedly left, leaving Benjamin a note saying “it was nice to have met you.”

After this was an event that changed Benjamin’s view on death. Benjamin, Captain Mike, and the rest of the crew were enlisted by the US Navy and got involved in the second World War. When it seemed that the battle settled, the crew’s tugboat went closer to check on the warzone (or at least what was left of it). Suddenly, a German U-boat surfaced in the Atlantic Ocean and attacked them. Another battle began, and the tugboat won through its uncontrolled ramming into the enemy ship. Sadly, fatal wounds took the lives of most of the crew, including Captain Mike. Benjamin had been used to people dying every now and then back in the retirement home, but this kind of death, for him, was totally different.

After that incident did I notice that the story started to become dragging, although there were some important events that took place: a dying Thomas Button revealed that he was really Benjamin’s father; Daisy became successful as a dancer; and the changes between Benjamin and Daisy after some years separated them until an incident that halted Daisy’s dancing career, the narration of which I liked.

When they were separated, Daisy was accidentally injured in a car accident and had to be hospitalized. What I liked about this event was the presentation: a series of what-ifs. Benjamin’s narration of the ordeal was quite interesting, as he looked on the linearity of time but supposes otherwise. However, his suppositions are just that—suppositions. No matter how many what-ifs and if-only’s we make, there’s only one thing that would come out. And to Benjamin, “… life [is just] being what it is—a series of intersecting lives and incidents, out of anyone’s control—that taxi did not go by, and that driver was momentarily distracted, and that taxi hit Daisy, and her leg was crushed.”

The last thing that I liked about the film is the whole romance and the loss of it between Benjamin and Daisy when their ages met (he, in a 49-year-old’s body, and she, 43) and started to drift away again. Caroline was the product of their love (a secret Daisy surprisingly kept from her daughter until this moment). What I liked about this kind of relationship were the realizations that came (and apparently governed their lives) along the way, like what will happen if Benjamin became too young to even remember that he loved, or what were going inside Daisy’s mind, knowing that her loved one would only get younger and younger. Seemingly, this difference between them was more interesting than that “curious case” of Benjamin’s aging backward. Or maybe, that’s the real “curious case” of Benjamin, that of love.

Overall, the movie is DARK. It has serious tones proclaiming death, life, and everything in between. Some of my friends say the portrayal of roles is a bit lacking in the drama department. I agree on that, as I have mentioned above. However, it also strikes me that the lack in acting made it realistic, in turn making it a depressing movie. And the mere fact that I was depressed when the film ended means that quintessentially, the movie itself is effective. oh, and the realizations in life, no matter how “emo” the delivery of those lines may seem, also attract attention, teaches people about life (of course), and keeps the plot flowing smoothly. And speaking of plots, you can read the short story where this movie was based from in Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

I’ll end this post with the very quote of Benjamin towards the end of the movie: “Along the way you bump into people who make a dent on your life. Some people get struck by lightning. Some are born to sit by a river. Some have an ear for music. Some are artists. Some swim the English Channel. Some know buttons. Some know Shakespeare. Some are mothers. And some people can dance.”

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