The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008)

DVD Cover (Paramount)
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Overall Rating 67%
Overall Rating
Ranked #171
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Born under unusual circumstances, Benjamin Button springs into being as an elderly man in a New Orleans nursing home and ages in reverse. Twelve years after his birth, he meets Daisy, a child who flickers in and out of his life as she grows up to be a dancer. Though he has all sorts of unusual adventures over the course of his life, it is his relationship with Daisy, and the hope that they will come together at the right time, that drives Benjamin forward. --IMDb
Review by bluemeanie
Added: December 29, 2008
Movies come and go; people grow old and die; the seasons change and the tides rise and fall - these are all certainties of life. Now, you can add one more certainty to that list - Brad Pitt will never look bad. In "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", Pitt has to play both an 80-year-old and a teenager. With the help of groundbreaking special effects, he is able to pull both off. It's something that has never before been required of an actor on this particular level. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" lives and dies by your ability to accept the idea of a man who ages in reverse, being born as an old man and getting younger and younger. Director David Fincher might not seem like the first choice for a film of this nature, especially when you look at his previous films, but Fincher does have a knack for handling odd material, or turning mainstream product into an odd result. Many people are calling "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" one of the best films of the year and touting it as a possible Best Picture winner. I can see where the high praise is coming from, but I can't quite agree on all those points. I enjoyed the film, very much so, but had some problems with some of the execution therein. I think the film might have been handled better if more attention had been paid to the inside of Benjamin Button and not the outside. It's great that we can see this character age, but it would have been nice to have seen a little more of what made the character tick.

In an unusual performance that deserves applause, Brad Pitt stars as Benjamin, who is born as an elderly man, barely alive. His father (Jason Flemyng) thinks he's a monster and leaves him on the doorstep of an old age home ran by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson). She takes the child and raises him as her own, surrounded by elderly men and women who don't see anything wrong with Benjamin. The film follows Benjamin as he gets older (though looking younger). He meets Daisy (Cate Blanchett ) as a little girl and their relationship spans the length of the film. We follow Benjamin as he leaves home, joins a tugboat crew , fights in the war and sees the world, taking time to have a brief affair with the wife of a politician (Tilda Swinton) and learn the ropes of women and drink from the adventurous Captain Mike (Jared Harris). As Benjamin gets older, he watches those around him age and die, finally reconnecting with Daisy when they've both reached, basically, the same age. The last part of the film is the strength of the picture, as we see Benjamin and Daisy share a very real love that is torn apart by the reality of what they have always known would happen. The film is the extraordinary story of a very ordinary man, and his condition is not dwelled upon very much at all. The final 30-minutes of the film are absolutely heartbreaking and make this a real treasure to watch.

There is so much to appreciate here. David Fincher knows how to craft an epic and this certainly qualifies. The special effects are nothing short of groundbreaking. We watch Brad Pitt as an old man and as a young man and know it's not him, but the technology is just so impressive. This will really revolutionize what actors can do with a role and the way in which directors might go about casting, age wise. The cinematography from Claudio Mirando and the original score from Alexandre Desplat are both sure fire Oscar nominees and deservedly so. It was so nice to see the way in which Fincher wrapped the story together, taking time out for humorous bits and bobbles, as with the man who keeps explaining how he has been struck by lightning seven times. His last film, "Zodiac", also had close to a three-hour run time. Fincher is great at producing lengthy films without causing his audience to lost interest. This is a great feat these days, believe me. But the technical aspects of the film are not up for debate. It's pretty obvious that the film is technically proficient in almost every way. I also want to single out two performers in the film. Taraji P. Benson will be nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Queenie and she sure does deserve it. She steals many of the scenes in the film and it was nice to see such a warm performance. Cate Blanchett should also be rewarded with a nomination for the most difficult role in the film. She actually has to play old with the make-up and prosthetics, unlike Brad Pitt who gets the CGI-aid. Blanchett continues to prove she is one of the greatest actresses of her generation, hands down.

The problem I had with the film was the character of Benjamin Button. I didn't find much depth in the performance from Pitt and I didn't get enough information on him. I wanted to know more about the ramifications of his condition internally - how does this affect a human being to know they are aging in reverse? I don't accept that Pitt's character was solassez faire about the condition as he was in the film. I also thought Pitt was a little too subdued at times. The character never reaches any emotional heights and is really just a heartthrob for most of the film. Brad Pitt is the perfect choice for a role like that and he handles the early material well too - but, I just didn't see enough range to be blow away by his performance. Pitt does a good job, just not a great job. His looks alone are nearly enough to carry him solely through the last part of the film. I will also make mention that there is a chunk of about 30-minutes that does drag. It comes almost immediately after the Tilda Swinton sequence. It doesn't bore, per se, and the audience is still interested - it just lacks the charisma of the other material. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to direct a film on the scale of this one, and I'm not slighting David Fincher at all - I think he just attached to some material more than the other. I also had a huge problem with the number of times they kept cutting back to the hospital with the elderly Cate Blanchett and Hurricane Katrina approaching outside. All of that was just unnecessary and took away from what was the heart of the film.

Doing research I discovered that "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" currently rests at #100 on the IMDB Greatest Films list. This is 'curious' to me. I can understand how many people enjoy this film, but to call it one of the greatest films ever made? That is more than a stretch, that is an absurdity. The film really is "Forrest Gump", with a few alterations. Benjamin Button might not have a mental condition, but he has a physical condition and they both have a plain-spoken simplicity about them. And, at first, the relationship between Benjamin and Daisy is very similar to the relationship between Forrest and Jenny. But, the real power in this film rests in the final act where we see just what this condition is doing to Benjamin as he gets younger and younger. I can't think of a more heartbreaking ending in recent memory. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was a fine film, an entertaining romance and a true achievement in special effects. It was not as incredible as I had hoped and the flaws I mentioned were enough to keep me from placing it on my top ten list, though it might make the bottom ten. And my suggestions for the film are: Best Actress (Blanchett), Best Supporting Actress (Henson), Best Original Score, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Adapted Screenplay and maybe even Best Director for Fincher, depending. He deserves it.

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