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Benjamin Button breaks your heart

Don’t have the three hours to sit through an epic tale spanning eight decades, three continents, two world wars, and one enduring love? Here’s the gist: youth is wasted on the young.

Look beyond the larger-than-life presentation, get your head around the central premise – dude ages in reverse – and, yes, there’s not really much to ‘The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button’. But don’t let that put you off. This is compelling storytelling, plain and simple. Whimsical fantasy and genuine heartbreak collide in a delicate fairytale, lovingly and intimately told.

It’s still pretty odd, though. Brad Pitt plays a man born old – as a baby he looks like Yoda from ‘Star Wars’, with all the aches and pains of a geriatric – but who grows physically younger as the years pass. Emotionally still a child, he befriends a little girl, Daisy, who visits her grandmother at his old age home.

Over the years, as he gradually transforms through some astounding computer generated and make-up effects into the young drifter from ‘Thelma And Louise’ and she grows up into Cate Blanchett, their complicated relationship strengthens. Yet, with their lives moving in opposite directions, the couple can only truly be together during the time that their “middle years” coincide. Yes, you’ll cry.

And while you do, Pitt makes the most of a character simply carried by the sands of time. Never really grabbing life by the short and curlies, never quite fitting in, he passively drifts from one adventure to another – in fact not unlike that Gump fellow with his box of chocolates. Not much to work with but the actor ensures that, despite his experiences and regardless of his looks, Benjamin Button is someone to love.

Blanchett has more to work with as the strong-willed object of his affection, delivering a typically transformative performance. That’s to be expected.

What’s not is director David Fincher’s deft handling of both the parable’s grand scope and subtle sensitivity. In fact, the only concessions to his ‘Se7en’ and ‘Fight Club’ legacy are the flashes of sardonic humour that rip through the screenplay by ‘Gump’ scribe Eric Roth.

The emphasis here is magic not malice – but the spell is broken as soon as the end credits roll. For all its scope, emotion and unusual narrative, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ has no more lasting impact than your average romantic drama.

‘Gone With The Wind’ it isn’t.

  • This article originally appeared on iafrica.com.

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