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As Hurricane Katrina is nearing New Orleans,
An old woman lies in her hospital bed.
This Daisy requests that her daughter named Caroline
Read her a journal she never has read.
It tells of a man known as Benjamin Button,
Who didn’t grow old, but grew younger instead.
 
His mom died in childbirth, and his own father
Abandoned him due to his aged condition.
A black girl named Queenie, a nursing home lady,
Decided to care for God’s latest addition.
He grew, an old man among older old people,
And felt right at home with his gray disposition.
 
He met lots of people, an African pygmy
Who urged him to follow and showed him the town;
A woman who taught him to play the piano;
An old man whom seven times lightning struck down,
A young girl named Daisy whom Benjamin liked;
And even his father, of Button renown.
 
He found his first job on a tugboat in port
With Captain Mike Clark, an artiste of tattoos.
Clark showed him the world (and a few other things),
And Benjamin loved all the sailing and booze.
He once met a woman and had an affair,
Short-lived, for the captain received some war news.
 
He worked on the boat in the Second World War,
And lost many shipmates amid a brief fight.
Returning back home, he met Daisy again,
A spry ballerina with passions forthright.
He loved her but she had a life of her own,
Till a car accident in the City of Light.
 
Her injury left her unable to dance,
And she didn’t want any pity from Ben.
In time, she came back to New Orleans and him,
And they lived together with joy once again.
When Daisy got pregnant, they welcomed the child,
But though “now” was fine, Button worried of “then.”
 
While growing still younger, he knew he could not
Be father when he was a child as well,
So Benjamin left, leaving Daisy his money
For young Caroline, whom he just could not tell.
He came back but once several years after that,
And Daisy and he paired up at a hotel.
 
The next time she found him, he looked very young,
And Daisy took care of him as he regressed.
He died as a baby within her old arms,
After 84 years as this backward world’s guest.
Katrina moves in as Miss Daisy joins him,
Having told Caroline of the man she loved best.
____________________

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the first film on my list that fits into one of my favorite unofficial sub-genres of film, what I call a “meet ‘em and move on” movie. Such a film follows a single character through life (or a microcosm of it) as they interact with and learn from several different interesting people over time, usually ending with a satisfying wrap-up that may or may not include a recap of the various acquaintances encountered. They can be fanciful and weird like Big Fish or down-to-earth and slow like The Straight Story. I’ve included several such films higher on my list because they tend to touch me deeply (the two mentioned above are exceptions). This film has a number of the things I love about such movies: a unique way of framing the tale, a number of colorful characters made likable by quirks and familiarity, and a touching relationship at the heart of the film.

Benjamin Button is only #180 because it is a blend of elements I love and others I don’t. I was pulled in by the opening vignette about the clockmaker and young/old Benjamin’s adoption by the religious Queenie; then I was turned off by his introduction to a brothel. I enjoyed the listing of his shipmates at sea, not so much Daisy’s talk about her dance troupe “trusting” each other through sex. On the one hand, I loved Cate Blanchett’s performance, as well as Brad Pitt’s, but on the other, the truth is that Benjamin Button as a character is rather underdeveloped and flat. I admire several insightful lines and scenes, such as the build-up to Daisy’s accident. Yet Pitt doesn’t show much of a range of emotions, and my VC felt that Benjamin’s choice to leave Daisy and his daughter was selfish and unnecessary.

Many critics pointed out a number of similarities to another “meet ‘em and move on,” Forrest Gump.I suppose a main reason I like Forrest Gump as a character so much more than Benjamin Button is that Forrest is a better role model. Forrest loved Jenny unconditionally and stayed pure for her, even as she delved into depravity. Benjamin, meanwhile, was nonchalant about sex and had an affair with a married woman, as well as a number of one-night stands, never even marrying Daisy. Even his foster mother Queenie had nightly rendezvous with a close man, though Mrs. Gump wasn’t perfect in that regard either. Forrest took in everything that happened in his life with innocence and naiveté, while Benjamin accepted it all with dull worldliness.

Despite all these detractions and some profanity, the ending of the film is one of the best among “meet ‘em and move on” films. Nothing else in the movie even brought me close to tears, but seeing all the people he met one after another was such a great pay-off that ended the film in the best way possible. Overall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is an unusual love story that excels more in its details than in the big picture.

Best line: (Benjamin Button) “Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.”

 
Artistry: 10
Characters/Actors: 8
Entertainment: 7
Visual Effects: 10
Originality: 6
Watchability: 8
Other (language and aforementioned issues): -5
 
TOTAL: 44 out of 60
 

Next: #179 – The Hobbit

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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