“I couldn’t take my eyes off you. I thought you were mesmerising.”
Whoops, I almost forgot this one, and I know, I promised it much much sooner.
I saw this movie on New Year’s Eve and, honestly, I really very nearly hated it. I was all ready to post my review, parts of which I’ll admit to in the coming words, stamp 2 hearts on it, and be done. I didn’t get around to it, same way I haven’t got around to this one. In the 24 hours that followed, what can I say but that the movie persisted in haunting me. I just kept being filled with this feeling that my response had not been true … I just knew I needed to see it again before I finally committed to any kind of opinion on it.
And I couldn’t have been more right.
Like all of Fincher’s movies since Fight Club, this movie is unsurprisingly flawless in the technical department. You knew that part already, I’ve just got to get it out of the way. But the only part that really had an impact on me that first time watching was the last 20-30 minutes … the real final tumbling down in age of Benjamin – ironically a part of the movie relatively devoid of the make-up and trickery. It’s there that the movie truly became something for me so much more than the idea of the whole movie seemed when conveyed in print – when I found myself really feeling physically discombobulated by the impossible things happening on the screen.
The last thing to pique my interest in the movie before that first time watching was something Roger Ebert wrote in his review that doubles as a fine summary of what the movie is about:
“In the film, Benjamin (Brad Pitt) as an older man is enchanted by a younger girl (Cate Blanchett). Later in the film, when he is younger and she is older, they make love. This is presumably meant to be the emotional high point. I shuddered. No! No! What are they thinking during sex? What fantasies apply? Does he remember her as a girl? Does she picture the old man she loved?”
My jaw kinda dropped at that … this of course occurred to me in slightly less appalled terms when I first heard about the movie but didn’t really imagine that much would be made of this little aspect of the slightly dubious story. Of course, the point is, you can’t ignore this aspect of a story like this, lol. One of its central conceits is that age is meaningless … that everything is fleeting and that everything happens when it is meant to happen. All of this really struck me more on that second viewing – the moment of Cate Blanchett later in life in the swimming pool, Brad Pitt telling her that she chose a path in life that has a very narrow window of success … that even if she hadn’t failed due to her accident, she would still be swimming in that pool because she’d still be too old to be a dancer; that, contrasted with Tilda Swinton’s failed journey across the channel, only to actually succeed in old age; that idea Benjamin touches towards the end of the movie that it’s never too late to start something … indeed, to throw it all out and start again. Some of this stuff when I first watched it really didn’t impress me: the incredibly Sliding Doors-ish explanation of the umpteen events that could’ve gone differently and averted Blanchett’s accident, for instance. Second time around, I just found it mesmerizing. Everything about it, I just watched the whole thing with the same agog expression on my face that I had in those last 30 minutes the first time. And I can’t wait to see it again.