Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Curious Case of Brad Pitt's Extreme Hotness

By the time Brad Pitt comes roaring into his early 40s, riding a vintage motorcycle one-handed, it doesn't much matter if The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is an epic tale exploring the mysteries of our inner lives or a documentary about gerbil hunters in Minsk. He is beautiful. He is Robert Redford from The Way We Were (sailboat included) and in exchange for shedding the weird make-up, hair and old man body, he acquires a gorgeous wardrobe full of leather jackets and perfectly worn-in boots.

Something about the sight of him on screen not only set me gasping, but also reminded me of the generation that I belong to and the people that are a part of that. I felt at once physically charged by seeing him on screen and oddly moved by having 'known' him since he showed Geena Davis how to hold up a convenience store with a hair dryer. It was a strange moment of nostalgia, while watching a movie about that very thing. 'Nothing lasts,' says Benjamin.

At the same time that I was having all of these palpitations and 30something musings about Pitt, I was perplexed by his performance. He has shown in other movies that he can plumb the complex depths of grief and melancholy, most recently in Babel and most exquisitely in A River Runs Through It, but in Button he is oddly restrained. In many scenes he barely speaks, and both he and the love of his life, Daisy, played with equal emotional detachment by Cate Blanchett, rarely shed more than an elegant tear. They never break down. It is still a good performance in a very interesting movie, and in some ways it makes sense for Benjamin, who lives in two worlds at once, often unsure where he fits in, to be very remote. And yet, this is nearly 3 hours of sorrow, including an excruciating scene where Benjamin has to walk away from his young family. And still nothing. Why do we care what happens to them, if they don't?

Perhaps 10 years of constant tabloid attention has made Pitt sensitive to cracking open the actor inside the celebrity. I'm not sure what Blanchett's excuse is. She is an actress who is often described as luminous and lovely and the 'best.' I won't disagree that she's beautiful and sometimes transformative (Elizabeth, Notes on a Scandal), but I think she also gives off a chill, especially as Daisy - and I would argue in her Oscar-winning turn as Katherine Hepburn as well - that makes it unclear what exactly Benjamin falls for. Their beautifully photographed and sweetly acted love affair at the center of the movie finds her loosened up and the silly dancer's posture dropped, and it all makes a little more sense. 

The story of their love and Benjamin's life is grasping what you can, while you can and enjoying the perfection of that moment for as long as it lasts. Finding the connections. In the end there is for Benjamin a return to innocence and for Daisy a bittersweet slip into convention, and of course, nostalgia.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Sarah...this post is actually pretty friggin good. Why don't you submit this somewhere? You'd be a great film critic. I should know...I was the editor of the lifestyle section for my college paper. Yes, I know, you are VERY impressed. I, on the other hand, have forgotten everything about writing. Good luck. M