On Benjamin Button

Go to fullsize imageSo… Montreat’s over. Awesome College Conference. And now I’m in Nashville at a conference, during which I went to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read this post. I’m serious… I’ll give it away.

But I write this to those of you who have seen the film and wonder what you thought about it. Me… I’m still trying to work out where I stand.

Let me start off with the positive: it’s a beautiful movie. Really well shot. A creative story. Brad Pitt, who I’ve always considered to be a really talented actor (anybody see Snatch or The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford?), gives an incredible performance in what I have to believe was a challenging role. And though the film is really long (and feels that way sometimes), the story lures you right in in a Gumpish kind of way.

So don’t read this like I think the movie is worthless or a piece of cinematic dung (like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull… absolute crap). Exactly the opposite. I left Benjamin Button in a mood that I think the filmmakers intended. It was one of those kinds of movies that you’re in the car talking about, lying in bed thinking about (in a good way… not like the aforementioned entry into the Indiana Jones saga, with frickin’ aliens…. I digress). It’s not something you leave at the theater. At least, it wasn’t for me. I saw the movie yesterday… and I’m still thinking it through.  

However, I’ve found, as I’ve been thinking it through, that the movie really makes me angry. Actually, now I regard this movie much like I regard the movie Once, which I won’t go into if you haven’t seen it… but if you have, let me know b/c I ‘d love to talk with you about that one. 

Anyway, here’s what upsets me about ole Benjamin. So, the dude is aging backwards, while (the beautiful… sorry, but I have to say that) Cate Blanchett is aging as one would normally do. And she’s really struggling with this. She doesn’t like the fact that, as she ages, she’s gaining wrinkles and isn’t capable of the same physical feats she once was able to do. But, she chooses to stick around. She chooses to stay with Benjamin and their new daughter.

Benjamin, on the other hand, encourages her through this and calls her beautiful and all that nonsense. And I say nonsense because he’s full of it… he can dish it out but he can’t take it. What do I mean? Well, Benjamin says he’s going to love her, even when she’s old and wrinkly. But, when it comes to his dealing with the fact that one day, in his backward aging, he’ll look like a 12-year-old… well, he does what a coward would do. He leaves, saying that his wife can’t raise two people at the same time.

Can I just say, “BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!” It was like I’d been fooled by this guy for the whole movie. He just ups and leaves because he can’t take being seen or loved or cared for just the way he is. He, unlike Cate, isn’t courageous enough to be loved despite his flaws, despite the way he ages. He goes his own way, leaving behind years of being loved and taking care of his daughter and celebrating at birthday parties.

I spent just over two hours being invested in this guy, this character… only to be fooled.

Okay, so maybe I’m ranting here. No… check that, I’m definitely ranting. But, you know, there are plenty of times when there are characters that I don’t like at all in a movie or a book… but man, Benjamin let me down. Which, in turn, altered my perception of the film.

I think what’s going on here, though, is that I saw something in a movie… a movie that’s completely unrealistic, but a striking allegory, nonetheless… that really unveiled the flaws of our own humanity. It really made me think about the ways we all fall short and that, in some ways, any one of us can be like Benjamin. Heck, we’ve probably been there somehow, someway. So I should probably suck it up and say, “That’s life.”

But it doesn’t disappoint me any less to see someone like Benjamin make the kinds of decisions he does. Maybe it reinforces the very notion that even the very best of us fall short, make selfish decisions, and are afraid to just stick it out.

Or maybe I just don’t like seeing love wasted…

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~ by presbytide on January 10, 2009.

One Response to “On Benjamin Button”

  1. James,

    Mary Kathleen showed me your blog and I just read the entry on Benjamin Button. Definitely laughed out loud because you felt the same way I did after leaving the movie. I definitely thought Benjamin Button was a chump for leaving early and couldn’t figure out why that was supposed to be a “good” thing. Glad to know I wasn’t the only one who felt tricked by him!

    Hope you’re doing well.

    David

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