Women On Film – “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” – Susan Granger reviews

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“I was born under unusual circumstances,” explains Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), who emerges from his dying mother’s womb as a wrinkled old man. It’s 1918, New Orleans, and his distraught father (Jason Flemyng) abandons the swaddled newborn on the doorstep of Nolan House, a retirement home, where he’s taken in and lovingly raised by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson). Despite his elderly infirmities, he’s befriended by Daisy, a spirited young girl who often comes to visit her grandmother.

While everyone else is growing older, Benjamin is gradually becoming younger. He goes to sea with rowdy tugboat Captain Mike (Jared Harris), who introduces him to worldly vices and pleasures. In the Russian port of Murmansk, Benjamin becomes infatuated with a sophisticated diplomat’s wife, Elizabeth Abbot (Tilda Swinton), who dreams of swimming across the English Channel. Meanwhile, Daisy (Cate Blanchett) has become a ballet dancer in New York. And when their lives once again intersect, they fall deeply in love, poignantly aware that their romantic relationship is doomed to be ephemeral, since Benjamin is living his life backwards.

Inspired by F.Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, screenwriter Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump”) cleverly frames Benjamin’s epic fable into a gentle character-study, revolving around mortality, with haunting memories as related by elderly Daisy to her estranged daughter (Julia Ormond) in a New Orleans hospital during Hurricane Katrina.

Director David Fincher elicits subtly engaging performances, integrating Greg Cannom’s miraculous make-up with Eric Barba’s stunning visual effects and meticulous research by production designer Donald Graham Burt and costumer Jacqueline West.

At 167 minutes, it’s too long, but on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a tantalizing, touching, timeless 10. As Queenie says, “You never know what’s coming for you.”

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.