The film is this year's Forrest Gump (1994). It was adapted by Eric Roth, the same screenwriter as the Oscar-winning Tom Hanks movie.
Directed by David Fincher, this film represents a departure. Fincher is probably best known for his dark, dramatic films like Seven (1995) or Panic Room (2002). More comfortable with psychological thrillers, Fincher may alienate fans with this, his first love story.
He eases into the transition by tapping often-used star, Brad Pitt. This movie, in fact, marks their third collaboration after Seven and Fight Club (1999). It must be noted that this is a more subdued Pitt, less of a character and more of a puppet.
While the makeup and special effects are amazing and absolutely perfect, Pitt and Fincher are slaves to them. Pitt can only be a placeholder to the artifice and visual tricks at which we gawk with mouths agape for the film's first hour.
Pitt is only given a few lines of dialogue. For the most part, he remains a quiet observer. It's the part-time actors around him that stand out and really shine. Most notable is British actor Jason Flemyng who plays Benjamin Button's biological father. There is a particular scene between he and Pitt during a sunrise that is particularly moving.
The real standout, however, is Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth and Lord of the Rings) who plays Button's talkative love interest, a gorgeous redheaded girl with blue eyes, named Daisy. Blanchett is remarkable as a kind of Jenny to Pitt's Forrest Gump. Whether she's a lovelorn, ballet dancer or an unassuming, motherly type, she is as graceful, elegant, and warm as ever.
Like in Forrest Gump, the two lovers are separated and the titular character goes on a trip to see the world. This affords Fincher the ability to expand the tableau, beyond the New Orleans setting, and push the absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder idea.
It also gives Fincher the opportunity to add an action scene on the water that woke me up when I started to get bored. Yet, this sojourn in the middle of the movie seemed unnecessary and remained more of a distraction.
It's not until Button and Daisy are reunited and they start to deal with the nuances and complexities of their relationship do things become really interesting.
What's occurring for Button is reverse aging. Button and Daisy are relatively the same age. They fall in love and have a romance in the middle of their lives when both look right for each other. But, as the years go on, Daisy gets older and older, while Button gets younger and younger. Eventually, a point is reached when Daisy becomes an elderly woman, eligible for AARP, and Button becomes a toddler, needing his pacifier.
What happens in the movie is probably the only logical and sane thing that could happen, but I wanted something different. A few years ago, Nicole Kidman did a film called Birth (2004), which was about a woman who comes to believe her husband is a prepubescent boy.
In this film, Daisy's husband actually is a prepubescent boy who was at one time a fully-grown Brad Pitt. While I'm not arguing for pedophilia, I would have liked more of an exploration of this. As it stands, the filmmakers dodge that question and basically take the easy way out.
Fincher basically dodges any darkness and focuses more on the beauty, the beauty in his actors, the beauty in their relationships, and the beauty of time well-spent and appreciated.
The most inspired moment comes about two hours into the movie where Button becomes curious about a collision course in Paris. It's an examination of a single event by way of examining all the events leading up to it. It's the most blatant example that goes to the movie's theme of missed opportunities, and, what we could do, if we could turn back the clock.
Finally, I have to say that this is an absolutely, gorgeous film that's slightly epic in scope. Because of which, and because of rave reviews, it will most likely receive several Oscar nominations, including one for Fincher and Roth.
Sadly, this effort is not as great as Roth's previous Oscar-win for Forrest Gump. Also, if Fincher does receive the nomination and possibly the win, it will only be a consolation prize for the denial of his masterpiece Zodiac (2007), which was very ridiculously overlooked.
Four Stars out of Five
Rated PG-13 for brief war violence, sexual content, and smoking
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 39 mins.