Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

This movie is no Forrest Gump. Brad Pitt is no Tom Hanks. Having said that, the movie is good. It is about love and life. It even got me choked up.

As the name suggests, the screenplay is based on the fairytale-like short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald's simple, and beautiful, short story is about a boy, Benjamin Button, who ages in reverse. Benjamin is born as a 70 year old man, and with the passing of time gets younger. But this is where the similarity between the screenplay and the short story ends. The writer Eric Roth, who also wrote Forrest Gump, took the premise and turned it into a story about compassion, and human curiosity.

However, Brad Pitt's acting is anything but curious. He seems distant, and does not fully embrace the character. Brad Pitt, unlike Leo DiCaprio, does not have the ability to move the audience with his performance. But I have to hand it to him, Pitt does look boyishly handsome in the movie. And, as an elderly he looks scary and cute at the same time.

In the movie, storm and water are used as symbolic devices. Storm is one constant unifying device which creeps up throughout the movie, tying the lose ends of chaos that is life. The water, the waves, and its myriad vivid colours never looked better on screen. I think, the water symbolizes fluidity. The message that in essence we are the same, no matter how we weather or, in the case of Button, thrive with time.

The movie filled in the gaps that Fitzgerald left in his very brief short story. The original story reminded me of Margaret Laurence's Stone Angel. When the protagonist, Hagar, in Stone Angel, is approaching her demise, she has flashbacks of her life. But the question is what happens when you come to this world weathered, wrinkly, and crippled, but die with innocence and baby freshness? Is it better to be haunted by the mistakes one made in his or hers life, or is it better to forget about the past experiences, and die with no recollection of the life lived?

Here is one of my favourite poems about death by Dylan Thomas.

"Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Maria Sondule said...

I like the poem.
I liked Benjamin Button too. It was much better than Twilight anyway....

changetheworld360 said...

Yeah, I liked it too, but nothing truly wowed me, besides the technical aspects. It wasn't quite as moving as it could have been, or perhaps, I'm just too particular on emotions.
Agreed on Brad Pitt. He's good sometimes, but he was way too passive in TCCOBB. I don't get all of the hoopla for his performance, particularly his Oscar nod. And speaking of Leo DiCaprio, I just got back from Revolutionary Road, and he and the film are both incredible. I'll post my thoughts later.

Zany said...

I haven't seen Twilight yet, but read your review :).

I agree with you, it was a good-enough movie. I liked Pitt's performance in 'Babel', and the first Ocean movie.
I am gonna watch Revolutionary Road later tonight. So I am glad to read that you liked it :). I look forward to reading your review :).