Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

One of the best things I can say about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is that it’s three hours long, and not a minute of it feels wasted. I wasn’t once bored, didn’t once inquire the time, I was completely taken into director David Fincher’s glorious fantasy.

Brad Pitt is remarkable as a man who ages backwords during a long, torrid life. Along the way, the ever-so-pleasant Benjamin meets a dynamic group of characters. Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) the woman who raised him, the people living with him in the old folks home, the wife of a spy that he has an affair with (the always brilliant, and recent Oscar winner Tilda Swinton), and of course, the love of his life, Daisy (Cate Blanchett).

Benjamin Button’s life is similar to Forrest Gump’s in the way that he progresses several decades doing what he wants, makes several interesting friends, and lives most of his life with peaceful resolve. Thank screenwriter Eric Roth who wrote both films (and won an Oscar for Forrest Gump).

Told in flashbacks by a middle-aged woman reading a diary, the film isn’t without its faults. It cuts back to the diary-reading far too often. Also, if I’m forced to find faults in Pitt’s performance, then I can pluck a few. I would’ve liked to see more emotions from Benjamin, as opposed to the same wavy, trance-like state that he seems to be in. He talks quietly, moves slowly and never gets angry. I suppose this isn’t Pitt’s fault, I’m sure it was written this way and positive that he was directed to act like this.

Having said that, lets point out the technical mastery of this film. The makeup and visual effects are stunning, easily the year’s best. You’re convinced in every single age-jump of Pitt’s appearance. Whether he’s 70 or 20, it’s absolutely exhilarating to watch. Fincher has always explored with new, innovation ways of filmmaking, hitting a high note with last year’s Zodiac, and my God if he hasn’t outdone himself this time.

Pitt’s performance, along with Swinton’s, are the film’s best. Henson is getting serious Oscar attention and Blanchett is reliable, but not superb. Pitt will no doubt be nominated, and for good reason, he’s an actor that has to overcome his own off-camera, tabloid-heavy celebrity. I’ve admired his work for years since he reached mega-stardom. From Ocean’s Eleven to Babel to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford to Burn After Reading. He’s an actor that is hardly ever given fair credit.

Meet this film halfway and it’ll be a great ride. Of course the idea of people aging backwords is ridiculous, but have fun with it, the film surely wants you to. A-


  1. I never really understood the mockery this film received. Because of Brad Pitt? Because of the length? Does the title sound too funny?

    No idea... whatever... people... go figure. *shrug*

    For me, the early segment with Elias Koteas and the clock is so interesting that I'd recommend the whole just for that piece. But the rest is a wonderful grand adventure as well. I would actually consider this a modern epic.

    1. Shocker, we COMPLETELY agree yet again. My favorite scene of this film is the Koteas intro. I love that moment.