Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 53
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

THUS BEGINS “THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON”: Miss Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) is holding the foundling that was left on the steps of the old people’s home where she lives and works. She has decided that, even though the infant looks like an old man, she will raise him as if he were her own.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Brad Pitt Stars in Adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald Story

Kam Williams

Loosely based on the short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a melancholy movie about love, mortality, and loneliness revolving around a baby (Brad Pitt) who is born old and who becomes younger over the course of his life. The story was adapted by Academy Award-winner Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) who managed to stretch a short story into a 167-minute parable of Biblical proportions.

Directed by David Fincher, the film opens in New Orleans at the end of the First World War as Benjamin’s mother (Joeanna Sayler) is dying during childbirth. The baby’s father (Jason Flemyng), after seeing his inexplicably aged infant for the first time, proceeds to wrap him in swaddling clothes and, unable to bring himself to drown the child, abandons him on the back steps of a local old folks’ home. Fortunately, the baby is discovered and adopted by the home’s nurse, Miss Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), who altruistically decides to care for him.

Although her odd looking baby is initially beset by an assortment of infirmities that are characteristic of an elderly person, Queenie notices that there is something different about Benjamin. While the residents of the home age and die, the child miraculously becomes more vigorous, gradually gets back his hearing, his eyesight, grows hair, learns to walk, etc.

Eventually, Benjamin becomes independent enough to leave Queenie and the home and he sets out to explore the world. With an uncanny sense of timing — reminiscent of Forrest Gump — he embarks on a journey which lands him in the middle of a number of historical events such as a World War II naval battle and a NASA rocket launch.

Whereas Forrest repeated the refrain “My momma always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get,’” Benjamin repeats Queenie’s maternal words of wisdom — “You never know what’s coming for you.” The parallels between the two movies don’t end there. Like Forrest Gump, Benjamin has an endearing naivete about him, and he also yearns for an elusive love interest (Cate Blanchett).

All of these similarities may be because Eric Roth wrote the script for both movies, and he seems to be attempting to use some of the same devices that won him an Oscar for Gump. Of course Button’s reverse aging is unique, and makes for a novel and compelling plotline. Additionally, Fincher’s painstaking attention to the details in the scenes of each era is spectacular.

The film is a morose morality play that is likely to land its share of accolades during the awards season, provided everyone stops comparing it to Forrest Gump.

Excellent (3.5 stars) Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, smoking, and brief war violence. Running time: 167 minutes. Studio: Paramount Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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