The youthful elixir. It’s a subject that’s rarely dealt with in film these days – the envy of youth and the desire to travel back to less saggy times. The last example I can think of is Death Becomes Her, the over-the-top act-off between Streep and Hawn that vaguely entertained in the 80s. Maybe we’re less obsessed with the idea than we used to be.
More importantly, two hours and thirty four minutes, this bloody film goes on for. It’s a disgrace. And, even worse, buttons only play a very minor role in the story – so why they even mention them in the title is beyond me. There is no single button in the whole movie that Benjamin (Pitt) gets involved with, beyond fastening his lapels!
Forgetting the fact that the title is entirely misleading (with echoes of that other misnamed picture, Who Has Eaten Gilbert’s Grape?), this isn’t a bad movie at all, if you can handle over two and a half hours of Brad Pitt being nice to everyone and falling in love a couple of times. There’re some Forrest-Gump-for-grown-ups moments – the episodic nature lending itself to what amount to skits on loss, war, fatherhood and abandonment. He goes to sea, fights in the war, has a family, and all the while he is going backwards – born an old man and heading towards infancy. So, even if you couldn’t care less about any of the characters and if the relationship with Cate Blanchett seems as phoney to you as it did to me, you can sit back and enjoy the freaky sight of a doddering and withered Pitt in his infant old age.
Personally, I’m hoping for a sequel (‘The Curiouser Case of Benjamin’s Other Button) in which Pitt is the only one whose lifetime runs the right way and the rest of the world is in reverse. So he watches his mum, dad, teachers etc… get younger and younger as he turns into a wrinkly. Though I suspect this would be more expensive to film.