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New movie reviews for Eagle County

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
cowen@vaildaily.com
Special to the Daily
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“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is about death, pure and simple. It celebrates death and all things mortal without remorse. The epic tale (based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald) of a man born in the body of an 80 year old who ages backwards to infancy is at times sentimental but never syrupy thanks to director David Fincher’s (“Se7en,” “Fight Club”) guidance. He doesn’t allow the film to veer into “Forrest Gump” emotional territory despite the obvious similarities both films share.

More on that later.

It’s 2005 and Hurricane Katrina is knocking on New Orlean’s door as the movie opens in a hospital room where an old woman named Daisy (Cate Blanchett) lies slowly dying and her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) keeps her company. The movie is told through flashbacks as Caroline reads to her mother from a strange journal found in Daisy’s briefcase. As she reads, the life of Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) unfolds from his birth ” he’s born in a small, old and withering body ” and takes us through his life as he grows younger while everyone around him grows old.

The “Forrest Gump” comparisons become more obvious as the movie goes on, and since both films were written by Eric Roth, that’s understandable. Instead of “life is like a box of chocolates” we get “you never know what’s coming for you.” Instead of a recurring feather in the wind, we get a recurring hummingbird. Thankfully Fincher is there to keep things grim instead of gushy.

As Button grows younger, he learns about life by joining the crew of a tugboat (run by Jared Harris in the best supporting role of the movie), having his first drink, visiting a brothel, having a relationship with a married woman (Tilda Swinton), traveling the world and fighting in World War II. Then there’s the issue of his true love, Daisy, who he met when they were both 12, but he looked like a 70-year-old man and she like a young girl. For obvious reasons, appearances kept them from pursuing anything serious.

Along the way everyone in Button’s life dies, and I mean everyone. The movie’s bodycount is only slightly lower than “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” And people die normal deaths, just like they would in real life ” they grow old, they die in battle ” while Button grows younger in appearance but older in age.

Inevitably Button and Daisy meet in the middle, when they are both at the peak of physicality and for a brief period in his life, things are normal. They start a family, buy a house, but that only lasts for a while and eventually age gets the better of them both, from different ends.

The movie doesn’t really give any commentary on death, it just throws it in your face as a fact of life. It’s something nobody can run away from. Seeing Button die in reverse is weird but profound and it makes one realize that people die everyday at every age. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” bears little resemblance to Fitzgerald’s original work, and at close to three hours, it’s a little too long, but it’s a beautiful, well-acted picture that avoids many of the obvious cliches it could have fallen into. The film is punctuated occasionally with comic relief and when it comes, it stands out and is welcome, but bring the Kleenex, because this one’s a dazzling downer.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.

Rated: PG-13.

Directed by: David Fincher.

Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Julia Ormond, Jared Harris.


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