This one has been streaming on Hulu for a while, and I finally decided it was necessary to see it. It’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. , and it is going to take two hours and 45 minutes out of your life. Since I never read anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I’m going to struggle explaining the story. This was distributed by Paramount and Warner Brothers, as the title sequence shows, and if you want to see these logos as you have never seen them before, then you need to watch this. Not fully comprehending it all, here is my overview of the story.
An old woman is dying, and, as this is a story about life from birth to death, several actors play the part, the main one for Daisy Fuller being Cate Blanchett. She tells the story while her daughter reads Benjamin Button’s journal.
During World War One a clock maker and his wife sent a son off to war, and a coffin came back. The clock maker buried his son, and he worked tirelessly on a clock. The clock was activated in the train station on the day the war ended, and it ran backwards, to the amazement of all. The clock maker explained this was the only way we could bring back those we had thrown away.
On the same day a New Orleans industrialist’s wife died giving birth to their baby, but the baby was so grotesque, withered like an old man, that the father snatched the infant and carried him away, with the idea of tossing the creature into the river. Instead, he left the baby on the steps of an old-folks home, where a black woman who worked there took him in and raised him.
We watch as Benjamin matures, at first confined to a wheel chair as a crippled old man, but becoming younger and stronger as he matures. At a religious revival the faith-healing preacher encourages him to walk on his own, and since he has actually grown younger and less inform, he can, indeed, walk.
Benjamin grows healthier and younger, and he takes a job on an ocean-going tug, where the world-wise captain teaches him the ways of the world.
World War Two comes, and the tug joins the war on the east coast, where German submarines are sinking United States ships. In a horrific encounter at night, the tug rams and sinks a U-boat that has torpedoed a troop carrier, and all on the tug except Benjamin are killed in an exchange of fire with the sub.
Back to Benjamin at the retirement home. He is already sexually accomplished when he meets Daisy at the retirement home. They meet again and again throughout the story, he growing less mature and she more.
She becomes an accomplished ballerina, pursued by hot and cold lovers until an accident with a Paris taxi cab ends her career. In the meantime, Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng) has acknowledge his son to bestow his inheritance.
Benjamin and Daisy become long-time lovers, and they have a child. Daisy grows older, and Benjamin grows younger, and they part.
In the end an aging Daisy cares for Benjamin as he regresses to infancy and becomes unborn (dead).
F. Scott Fitzgerald notwithstanding, the setting seems to be 2005 New Orleans, and as Hurricane Katrina rages outside, Daisy (apparently) dies, and the movie ends.
Of course there is a lot odd with this movie, aside from retrograde aging. Up front we see the clock maker’s son arriving home in a coffin. I feel fairly sure no American bodies were brought home from the war until possibly it was all over, and this part is curious.
Also curious is the end of Benjamin Button. He begins life as an infant with the body of an old man. When it comes time for Benjamin to die it is necessary to shrink him to the body of a youth, a child, and finally as a newborn infant. Yeah, right. Even some of the wackiest fantasy writers would have trouble with that concept. At what point does Benjamin die? Does he die at the point he should have been exiting the womb, or does he die, as pro-lifers would assert, at the point that the male sperm exits the egg? It’s troubling to say that this is the really weird part of the movie.