Friday, December 26, 2008

Benjamin Button Fails to Raise My Curiosity

Linda and I saw "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." I was looking forward to seeing it. Now, just an hour away from the experience, I feel let down. Brad Pitt did a good job. The makeup was amazing. The story line is not.

The idea of a baby born as an old man who, throughout life, grows younger until finally he's a baby, is clever. But Benjamin learns little, and gives us no answers. The movie doesn't even get the questions right. This captures the essence of my frustration. What could have been profound slogs along in trivialities (like a lot of beer and sex).

Here's the life of Benjamin Button, briefly:

  • Born as an old man
  • Abandoned by his father
  • Taken in as a baby by a black lady who works in a home for seniors
  • Rejects "Christianity" (the healing service scene is ridiculous - not only does BB not get healed but the faith healer collapses and dies - no wonder faith has no place at all in BB's life)
  • Gets drunk as a kid and has sex with a prostitute, leaving him wanting more (giving "dirty old man" a new meaning)
  • Becomes a sailor
  • Has an adulterous affair with Tilda Swinton who, after it all, leaves him a note saying "Nice to have met you" (The movie wants us to feel sorry for the poor wife-stealing Button at this point)
  • Finds out who his real father is, rejects his embrace, then seems to connect with him
  • Has multiple meaningless sexual encounters that lead to no real relationships (Button can't keep his pants buttoned)
  • Cohabits with his childhood sweetheart (many scenes of Button unbuttoned)
  • Occasionally wonders how it'll all work out with him growing young and her growing old
  • Fathers a child
  • Abandons the child and his cohabiting partner because he won't be able to be an adequate father, thus trading one level of inadequacy for another, lower one (Thanks Dad...)
  • Moves to India trying to figure it all out and maybe bathe in the Ganges (Thanks Dad...)
  • Comes back as a teenager to freak everybody out because he just can't stay away
  • Goes away again
  • Comes back again, this time as a kid who's in the early stages of Alzheimer's
  • Is cared for by his ex-cohabiting partner and, mutatis mutandis, cohabits again
  • Dies in her arms, while looking at her knowingly (!!!)
  • And through it all I felt like I was also watching reruns of "Titanic," as old Cate Blanchett listens to her daughter narrate the tragedy

Benjamin Button's life is weird, but only in one way. Otherwise, it's sadly normal. I've met 80-year-old people who still act like middle-schoolers, and Button reminds me of them, the difference being that he ages into looking more and more like them. I'm not curious about what makes him tick because I suspect there's not much there except a second hand moving backwards.