Long entertainer 

David Fincherís Oscar award-winning film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has an effective 
screenplay with an adequate mix of humour and pathos, writes Ervell E. Menezes

MAYBE it started with Back to the Future a few decades ago, and after that Hollywood has come out with a number of films toying with time and space, Time-Machine style, the latest is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button about Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) born in his eighties and ages backwards.

Brad Pitt excels in his role as Benjamin Button
Brad Pitt excels in his role as Benjamin Button

Based on a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, it has immense possibilities and some corny situations but it is also about a tender love story covering large tracts of time. It is Benjamin Buttonís childhood girl friend Daisy Fuller (Cate Blanchett) that is an on-and-off thing but the connecting thread.

"I was born under unusual circumstances," says Buttonís voice over at the start of the film. That was after World War 1 when the freak of a child had developed some strange developments. He was a dwarfed hairy child, an old head to his young body, an embarrassment to all but himself. About death, heís not afraid, but curious of what comes next. Curious indeed. And thereís a good deal of philosophy on relationships and loneliness.

The best part of the film, however, is director David Fincherís recreation of the different periods, from the 1920s to the modern times. We have that 1940s era of old limousines, the Chevrolets, Pontiacs and the Buicks accompanied by the music of those days. The Platters sing "My Prayer", which is sure to warm the cockles of old hearts. The flavour is distinctive and contributes to the overall ambience of the film.

The story is narrated in flashback, judiciously used. An ageing Daisy in hospital and her daughter Caroline (Juilia Ormond) reading to her excerpts from Benjaminís diary that cover different stages and a plethora of characters. Queenie (Taraji P. Hanson), of course, is the black woman who raises him up and ship captain Mike (Jared Harris), who initiates the simple Forrest Gump-like Benjamin into the realm of sex. Elizabeth Abbott (Tilda Swinton) is another he meets in the long course of his travels.

Benjamin and Daisy finally establish their love in the spring of 1962 and in their forties. "Iím so glad it didnít happen when I was 26, I was so young and you so old," says Daisy in an amusing but nevertheless pertinent line. As time goes by, Daisy becomes an older woman, shades of The Graduate and the name Benjamin fits like a cap. But what next? And therein lies the pathos of this idyllic love affair.

The screenplay by Eric Roth is effective, a good mix of humour and pathos and covers much ground but the inordinate length of the film ó all of 160 minutes ó works against the film. Guess Fincher gets too subjective and if clipped of at least 30 minutes would have made a big difference.

Still, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which saw Donald Graham Burt and Victor J. Zolfo bagging the Oscar for best art direction, is a significant movie, well structured and with excellent performances by both the lead actors Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Taraji P. Henson, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Tilda Swinton and Julia Osmond were all adequate in supporting roles. Surely worth watching, but go prepared for a long entertainer.