“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2Hrs, 46 Minutes)
At least once a year, a film(s) come out that most critics rave about and yours truly just doesn’t “Get” the love in conjures from them.
For me, that film for 2008 is definitely, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”. A sometimes ambitious epic starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. It’s directed by David Fincher, one of the more dependable filmmakers working today (Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac).
It’s the story of Benjamin Button, who as a baby, is abandoned at the doorstep of Queenie, played by Taraji P. Henson. She delivers the films best performance.
Benjamin has a rare condition to say the least: He was born as the size of a regular baby, but has all the characteristics of an elderly man. He suffers from cateracts, hearing loss, and just about every common condition that comes with getting older.
Benjamin learns how to walk and talk, all the while actually getting younger.
As a young (or old) man, he meets “Daisy”, a seven year-old girl who is intrigued by Benjamin and forms a friendship with him. It is fristarting, that despite their similar ages, it is impossible to have a friendship with Daisy due to his condition, and how innapropriate that will look to the rest of the world.
It’s in this first third of the film that I easily enjoyed the most. The effects in these early scenes are absolutely stunning. Showing an aging Brad Pitt’s face on another actor’s body is flawless, and completely believable.
It’s also interesting to see a child trapped in an elderly man’s body while he learns about the world.
The issue becomes once Button leaves his home at the equivalent of 17, We see what a dull and uncompelling character he is. We never learn much about him despite the 166 minute runtime. What are his likes?/Dislikes? We never really learn.
I’ve heard some claim Button is “Passive”, and due to his condition, watches the world and people revolve around him. That just doesn’t sit well with me. Can’t one be passive, yet also be interesting?
After the strong afforementioned first third, the film runs into some major pacing issues. I don’t mind films that try to be epic, but the movie didn’t compell me when watching Benjamin’s adventures. When he meets up with an adult Daisy, now played by Blanchett, I just didn’t care if their now romantic relationship will succeed.
Another issue, is the fact the film shares so much similarities with Oscar winner Forrest Gump. Not so coincidentally, they share the same screenwriter: Eric Roth. By the time Benjamin goes to war with a drunken sea captain, I thought they might as well just get it over with and call him Lt. Dan.
The basic premise is based on a short story by F.Scott Fitzgerald. However, it’s as if Roth took the story of a man who ages backwards and added many of the subplots from the superior “Forrest Gump”.
David Fincher does a marvelous job with the technical aspects of the film. It’s the story and characters that let me down. That’s tough for me to say as i’m a big fan of Fincher’s work. I believe this is his weakest film yet, and yes, I have seen “Alien 3”.