The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Due to award season, there are several high content/high quality films that are coming out in theater’s all at once.  Alas, with expensive ticket prices, I am lucky enough to have only seen one over the holidays (and it was a free ticket paid by my awesome brother-in-law).  It was THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON directed by David Fincher.  The basic premise is of a man who is born old and he ages backwards.  He falls in love with a woman and must make important decisions based on his unique predicament.  Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett pair a second time (after BABEL) to deliver subtle and nuanced performances.  David Fincher (FIGHT CLUB, SE7En, ZODIAC) crafts the fairy tale that plays very much like a short story.

What’s good about it: It is a fascinating idea.  I was very interested in what would be revealed placing a man in such a unnatural process of aging while the world around him proceeds along as normal.  I have to say that the special effects do what they should and you hardly even notice that they are “effects”.  You really believe you are seeing a 60 year old Benjamin Button instead of a CGIed gimmick.  Another interesting point is that the story is centered on Pitt and Blanchett, so the mood and style of the film is very personal and intimate to their relationship.  There performances are not Oscar worthy in my book, but they have a wonderful chemistry together and I am continually interested in how they interact.  Honestly the best acting comes from the supporting cast.  They develop the world of the film and create unique characters with power.  I feel that Fincher does a great job directing with beautiful sets, costumes, CGI, and cinematography.  These can be tough elements to wrangle all at the same time, but I see a cohesive film that due to strong direction.

What’s not so good:  My biggest complaint is the screenplay.  I really don’t think they explored the material enough.  Instead of asking tough questions about mortality, history, human perspective, and memory, it simply revolves around a tortured love story.  This is fine, but the whole concept of the character of Benjamin Button aging backward is more of a side note to the love story and thus it becomes merely an obstacle that must be overcome.  What is Benjamin Button’s perspective on the world around him?  What does he learn and how is that different from a normal human who ages forward?  An example: he learns piano from a woman, and then we never see how music effects him in his life.  It is a footnote that is thrown in the mix, much like everything that he encounters accept the love story.  Pitt is not challenged enough, nor is he given any scene in which he really must grapple with what he thinks of this world around him (what an interesting idea to have a “teenager” in the twilight of his life, what would he have to say to us that is different?  Instead Benjamin Button just putters off to the grave).  Instead of truly diving into the mystery of the characters predicament, Benjamin Button could just as easily have been a man dying from some ailment and the story would not change that much.

An impressive chapter for Fincher (and I hope the film does well at the box office purely because I like all the people involved in the film).  Honestly, you could rent this one when it comes out on DVD.  No need to rush to see it.


3 Responses to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

  1. January 17, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    it was a little weird to see an old version of Brad Pitt’s face pasted onto a kid’s body, but i guess that’s why they call it a “curious case”

  2. January 28, 2009 at 12:36 am

    Good. I am glad you didn’t like it all that much. I was annoyed with the loose ends on the plot (piano, clock maker, Katrina, etc.). I kind of had an “X3” expression on my face after it was over. I kept waiting for that “clincher” scene to tie everything together, and it never happened. I felt like they could have done so much more with the story.

    Now I know that might be the point the film was trying to make–that life is a series of choices that don’t necessarily fit together, but that is frustrating to me.

    I enjoyed the cinematography. I am glad you didn’t like it all that much. Go see Revolutionary Road.


  3. 3 Doc
    February 4, 2009 at 11:27 am

    i like the review. i also like the link i put down for my website.

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