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Monday, January 19, 2009

Ultimate coming of age story

Last night I got to watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It's a Dorian Gray-esque tale, starring Brad Pitt as a man who is born as an old man at the end of WWI in 1918 and ages backwards, dying as a baby in the spring of 2003. It takes a Forrest Gump-ian look at his picaresque adventures at home in New Orleans, where he is raised by retirement home nurse Queenie (Taraji P Henson) and further afield, taking in his epic love affair with his "childhood" sweetheart Daisy (Cate Blanchett).

I wasn't sure at first what to make of this movie. Technically, BB is simply awesome: the reverse aging of Brad Pitt is just amazing - at one point he looks younger than he did in Thelma and Louise back in 1991. Yet for a movie so technologically advanced, it is very old fashioned: a whimsical, evocative, lyrical and melancholy drama. It's also visually stunning, with faultless period detail.

My gut reaction was that it was a movie to admire, rather than love; intriguing more than engaging. But having slept on it, I find myself unable to shake off many of its set pieces and ideas, and so am officially upgrading it to status of grower, not shower. It truly is a haunting movie, raising all sorts of questions about ageing, family, love, the nature of time and, more importantly, timing. It also confronts, head-on, the mantra that youth is wasted on the young.

It also features an array of incredible performances: Blanchett has rarely been better in a leading role, while in Henson, a star really is born. But best of all is Brad Pitt, subtly acting his socks off in the role of a lifetime - literally. His performance is sensitive, quietly commanding, charming and ultimately moving, profoundly so.

BB is a bit too long (2 hrs 40 mins), and sometimes there really isn't enough story to justify such a running time. But this really is a movie that, I believe, will be one for the ages.

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