Friday, February 6, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Button is an entertaining, well-made, thought provoking film. If it wins best picture this year, there won’t be any complaints here. It has a message and demands a lot of thought from the viewer. Is the message one worth thinking about, though?

There is a lot of similarity with Eric Roth’s other script: Forrest Gump. Both stories are about a strange but not outstanding individual who lives a full and interesting life. They are both about the love of a lifetime, that is ultimately thwarted save for a few precious moments of togetherness. However, where Gump is about innocence and love, Button is more about living life to the fullest and experience. Gump was a picture of selflessness; Button is a man who does what he wants and gives no heed to regrets.

Time ticking away (or in this case back) is the background noise throughout the movie. We are constantly reminded of its passage and its temporariness. The viewer is encouraged to enjoy what time they have, regardless of the consequences. After all you are given only so much, don’t waste it in regret.

The Hedonism is the downside of Button’s message, but there is another, better side to this story. Even though Benjamin is odd and different, his life and story serve to remind the viewer that no one is who they are in a mere moment of time, but the sum of their entire life. We are shaped by experiences, beliefs, and relationships.

“Along the way you bump into people who make a dent on your life. Some people get struck by lightning. Some are born to sit by a river. Some have an ear for music. Some are artists. Some swim the English Channel. Some know buttons. Some know Shakespeare. Some are mothers. And some people can dance.”

The other side of this truth is that people change and the joy of relationships is knowing people throughout their journey. “It's a funny thing about comin' home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You'll realize what's changed is you.”

There are two contrasting philosophies Button hears in the course of his life, one from his boss and the other from a man who was struck by lightening seven times:

“You can be as mad as a mad dog at the way things went. You could swear, curse the fates, but when it comes to the end, you have to let go.”

“Blinded in one eye; can't hardly hear. I get twitches and shakes out of nowhere; always losing my line of thought. But you know what? God keeps reminding me I'm lucky to be alive.”

Witticisms one is used to from Roth and his scripts, but ultimately in this case—they ring hollow and hopeless.

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