January 17th, 2014
(I did not cry during “August, Osage County,” and a close inspection of my seatmates showed me to be in the majority. Still, a few tears were somehow jerked. Compare the habits of five years ago.)
The title character in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is born a hideous old man. We soon learn he is aging backwards, and in the course of two hours and forty-five minutes we are treated to about ten stages of his life in reverse.
I won’t tell you more than I have to about his story, only that the movie is sentimental (not mawkish). I hesitate to call it a tearjerker, but the fact is it jerked three of my tears.
When I cry in a movie, I try (a) to hide it, and (b) to see who else is crying. My first tear came when Benjamin left home at about seventeen (having been born in his late eighties, he appeared to be seventy at this time).
I had a knuckle up to the corner of my right eye. My friend Mike was sitting to my left, but exhibited no signs of crying (although he told me later this scene brought a tear). Two open seats to my right was a woman. A rivulet ran down her left cheek.
Benjamin’s (Brad Pitt) love interest was a young girl named Daisy. He met her when she was twelve and he appeared to be eighty. But there was a spark, and it was clear that the age of mutual desire and consent would mesh nicely after a few more scenes. Before long, the director dispensed with the child actor and replaced her with Cate Blanchett (as a young ballerina). There was a heart-breaking shot of her in tights. Simply put, her ass was so lovely it made me cry.
The woman to my right was not crying.
Okay, now I’ve cried twice, and the movie isn’t half over. But because of the way I was sitting in my seat, and the woman’s obliviousness to my spying — or her disinterest — I could see she was crying at quite a few things. For the sake of the scientific paper you’re reading, I wish I had committed them to memory.
I didn’t cry again until Benjamin met his father. Although it was a wonderful scene, that’s not what made me cry. It was the gorgeous postwar Packard the man was driving. That big fat vertical front end — it’s what the Beemer was always trying to be but never accomplished.
After that, my tears were done. But I was in a good position to see the eye-daubings of quite a few people. Men and women. I think it would be nice to have a camera or two pointed at the audience from above the screen so this matter could be given a bit more study because I was torn — make mental notes or enjoy the movie. I decided to enjoy the movie.
But when Benjamin died as an infant in the now elderly Daisy’s arms, the woman to my right, and her woman friend to her right, were weeping. I got nothing out of the scene. It just wasn’t that affecting.
As you can see from the above Venn diagram, I take my analyses seriously. My weeping habits, and those of my female neighbor, met only at Leaving Home. I’m not ready to make the sweeping assertion that all men and all women will react to this movie as we did. But I am willing to make the generalization.
There is a difference. I have a Venn diagram somewhere that proves it.