Ever wonder what it would be like if you lived life in reverse? If we started old and then got younger as the years passed? Our minds would indeed grow as they normally would, growing wiser as the years passed, but our bodies would become more mobile, stronger, and useful with each passing year. There would be a lot of rather significant changes in the way we lived our lives, I imagine. There would be a lot of revelations, perhaps, about how we value our lives and our perception of aging and how we treat the elderly. I imagine a life with considerably more insight and respect for that which is now perhaps taken for granted, or sometimes disregarded entirely.
I suspect in some way that was part of the goal of F. Scott Fitzgerald as he wrote the short story upon which this film is based. Benjamin Button, an orphaned baby left on a door step, was born old. He was a baby that looked, and was, physically like that of a man in his 80’s. But as the years passed and he got older, he became younger. He aged in reverse. This film is the story of Benjamin, and how he lived his life, as well as those that were a part of it.
Indeed, there are moments where Benjamin, played quite well be Brad Pitt, does or says things that most certainly offer us the message at hand. When he says things like, “There’s nothing wrong with being old”, it’s clear what he’s getting at. He’s 7 years old in real time, but his body is that of a man of near eighty. And age isn’t something to be feared, or post-poned, it’s something to accept and to grow into gracefully. Though I must say, there are certainly those that would not agree with such a romanticized idea. But I can’t help but feel that perhaps a stronger emotional impact was missing from this message. I understood it, but I wasn’t made to really FEEL it. Maybe I’m just not quite old enough to appreciate it yet, perhaps the script really didn’t quite make its’ point using enough emotional connection. Or maybe I’m just dead inside. I’m hoping it’s the script thing.
But don’t let that deter you. There is so very much to like about this film, despite that and the daunting two hour and forty-five minute running time. I didn’t notice the length of the film. I thought the acting was wonderful. Both Brad and Cate Blanchett did a fine job along with everyone else. The cinematography is beautiful, the Production Design and make-up effects are superb (best aging make-up I’ve ever seen on film), and it is, most importantly, a touching story of one man’s unique journey through life. As a film narrative, it really is wonderful. This is a beautiful film.
Directed by David Fincher, who got his start directing the third installment of the “Alien” series, it is indeed a far cry from his music video and commercial work. Good thing, too. Life is pretty confusing already without all those jump cuts. How disorienting, right? Now he’s directed a movie about a guy who ages in reverse. Yeah, I’ll take door number two, Monty.
Will it win awards this coming Oscar season? It may get some nominations, certainly I think for make-up effects, and perhaps Care Blanchett will get a nod for Best Actress, and Brad Pitt may get one for Best Actor. But as good as it is, it’s imperfection in supplying a more emotionally intense message may hold it back. But again, it shouldn’t hold you back from seeing it. It’s still worth it.
—Neil T. Weakley, your average young-at-heart movie-goer.