Sometimes Everything Old Is New Again 

Pitt, Blanchett star in epic star-crossed tale

Hollywood producer Frank Marshall has had a longtime love affair. Not with some hopeful little starlet but with the city of Boise. Marshall has screened several blockbusters in our fair, but small city—of note, the Bourne trilogy—and often in conjunction with a fundraiser for Boise Contemporary Theater. We Boiseans often see these films weeks before they're released nationally, putting us in the same enviable position as Hollywood types who receive advance screeners. Earlier this month, Marshall brought the new Brad Pitt/Cate Blanchett film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, directed by David Fincher, to the Egyptian Theatre and a packed house.

Boise Contemporary Theater artistic director Matthew Cameron Clark stood before the audience and introduced Marshall, thanking him for his support of BCT and Boise. Marshall spoke briefly before introducing his two young daughters and his wife, Kathleen Kennedy, with whom he worked on the film. Kennedy explained that the movie—based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story—had been in the works for nearly two decades.

Benjamin Button is born old in the early years of the 20th century in the steamy, magical city of New Orleans. His mother dies just minutes after Benjamin's birth. His father, upon seeing the tiny infant who resembles a weathered old Shar-Pei, runs toward the docks with what is clearly the intent of drowning the baby. His plans thwarted by a curious cop, he leaves the tiny crying bundle on the steps of an old-folks' home. Queenie, a young black woman who oversees the care of the aged and aging, takes Benjamin in and raises him as her own.

Chronologically, Benjamin is just a few years older than Daisy (Blanchett) when they meet for the first time. Though he looks old enough to be her great-grandfather, she senses a kindred spirit. Fincher gives the audience enough to see that Daisy and Benjamin are like points on a rubberband; the space between them is stretched as they live their individual lives, but we know the strong tension will eventually snap them back together. Fincher doesn't do that, though, until we are all ready: audience, Daisy and Benjamin.

We change as Daisy does, growing comfortable with Benjamin as he un-ages from a wheelchair-bound bald boy with age spots to a teen with a cane and thin gray hair to a young adult who looks like he'll soon be eligible for Social Security. We hold the armrests of our theater seats until Daisy and Benjamin finally meet in the middle, their outer selves in the same place emotionally as their inner ones.

It is, as Kennedy described before the screening, "a sweeping love story" and one that we know must eventually come to a bittersweet end. The other main character, time, will allow for nothing else.

Pitt and Blanchett are two of the world's best known faces, not because they are pretty ones (though in this film, they are both nearly unbearably that). They've earned their places in the Hollywood canon for digging deep into a collective consciousness and pulling out something both exotic and familiar. Benjamin Button is a film that speaks not to a shared experience, but to a moviegoer's desire to see something impossible and mythical in a tenable and realistic setting. We believe this could happen because we want to, thanks to Blanchett, Pitt and Fincher. Blanchett achieves sublime under-acting. She's an ethereal creature on the screen and, in each scene, makes it more difficult to imagine anyone else dwelling in that time and space. Pitt deserves whatever accolades he receives for this film. The makeup, costuming and computer production on this film coupled with Pitt's ability to make us forget it's that famous face behind the 80-year-old man with the mind of a 7-year-old earn him the fervor that surrounds him far more than his famous couplings or how many children he adopts. Benjamin Button is a film in which Pitt and Blanchett both inhabit roles of a lifetime.

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