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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

A movie directed by David Fincher

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Movie Review: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

  • Dec 27, 2008
  • by
Rating:
+3

For a movie about the preciousness of time, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" runs a bit long.  At 159 minutes, the tale of a man who is born with an 80 year old body, ages in reverse and dies as a baby, could have been a deep reflection on mortality, an epic on the human experience from a strange perspective.

Instead, the film works best as a simple fairy tale, a lighter reflection on the transience of love, friends and mortality.  Directed by David Fincher ("Zodiac", "Fight Club") from a script by Eric Roth ("Forrest Gump"), the film always entertains due to its lush cinematography, enchanting score and mesmerizing performances from stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.

The story begins with an elderly Daisy (Blanchett in heavy makeup) on her death bed in a hospital while her daughter (Julia Ormand) reads the diary of Benjamin Button.  Traveling back to the end of World War I, Benjamin is born wrinkled and ugly, abandoned by his father and raised by a sympathetic black housekeeper (Taraji P. Henson) in charge of a retirement home.  At the age of 7, Benjamin appears in 70 complete with the body of an old man and the digitally-aged face of Pitt.  The special effects are an incredible technological achievement, because as Benjamin ages into the youthful Pitt we first saw in "Thelma and Louise," the transition is seamless.  Oh, and Pitt's acting chops, not usually recognized due to his publicity overkill, deserve praise. 

Pitt layers Benjamin with innocent charm, curiosity and a knowing sadness, crafting a likable, if enigmatic character, who speaks more with his gaze and tone than his bits of dialogue. 

Benjamin as a teenager leaves home to work on a tugboat led by a grizzled, Irish Captain Mike (a vigorous Jared Harris).  The captain introduces Benjamin to booze, sex and life-long disappointment if you don't pursue your passions.  Mike wanted to be an artist, but was discouraged by his father and now tattoos on the side to express his creativity.  

The tale continues with various episodes, some more entertaining than others, such as Benjamin's affair with a self-searching married woman (Tilda Swinton).  Later, Benjamin fight in World War II, returns home, makes amends with his father, but doesn't gain  happiness until he reunites with Daisy, a childhood friend who grows up to be a graceful dancer played by Blanchett.  Their relationship dominates the middle portion of the film and though the actors have natural chemistry, there isn't enough development on why they are so drawn to each other than that they've known each other for a long time.

Fincher with cinematographer Claudio Mirana and composer Alexandre Desplate maintains the film's visual and sonic beauty.  No matter the era, each shot is rich with detail, like a still portrait of each period.  The score creates a dream-like quality from xylophones and harps that add a sweeping grace to the narrative. 

If only that narrative were shorter and more filling.

3 out of 4 stars

Bottom Line:  Beautiful to watch with performers at the top of their game, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" works as a simple, satisfying fairy tale. 

Benjamin Button

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March 03, 2009
"For a movie about the preciousness of time, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' runs a bit long" -- I agree wholeheartedly! I also found it kind of astounding that the writers managed to make a short story that takes about 20 minutes to read, into a three hour long movie. Furthermore, I felt like a couple of the various episodes were unnecessary, but other than that, beautifully shot film.
 
February 19, 2009
Ah, that would explain the comparisons to FORREST GUMP!
 
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More The Curious Case of Benjamin B... reviews
review by . September 22, 2009
Brad Pitt plays Benjamin Button, a man born old who ages backwards as the years pass, so that when he dies, he's an infant. Cate Blanchett is his love interest but there didn't seem to be much chemistry between the two. I also didn't like her character - she seemed too self-absorbed. I guess I thought this would be along the lines of Forest Gump, showing historical events that coincided with Button's life, and it does this only in a minor way. Pitt does a good job with the role and his narrative …
review by . February 08, 2009
Benjamin Button Poster
When I first saw the preview for Benjamin Button, I thought it was going to be a terrible film, one in which I really had no desire to see. My father agreed with, up until he saw the film and had nothing but great things to say about it. I also had to come to terms with the fact that the Oscars were in three weeks and I hadn't seen any of the best picture nominees. So yesterday I went to go see it and I was pleasantly surprised.    Button is definitely best picture worthy, but …
Quick Tip by . December 20, 2009
A most unusual story... one that gives an alternative perspective about life & death. Slow to start but one that ends surprisingly touching.
review by . January 16, 2009
"Ninety years without slumbering,   Tick, tock, tick, tock,   His life seconds numbering,   Tick, tock, tick, tock"   (lyrics - My Grandfather's Clock)       Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):     1. Clockmaker tries to turn back time   2. 1918: A child is born, giving meaning to the term "born old"   3. His father abandons him at a nursing home, where he can fit in with the other inhabitants. …
review by . August 05, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Brad Pitt plays Benjamin Button, a man born old who ages backwards as the years pass, so that when he dies, he's an infant. Cate Blanchett is his love interest but there didn't seem to be much chemistry between the two. I also didn't like her character - she seemed too self-absorbed. I guess I thought this would be along the lines of Forest Gump, showing historical events that coincided with Button's life, and it does this only in a minor way. Pitt does a good job with the role and his narrative …
review by . June 20, 2009
For all his good looks and great physique, Brad Pitt has an uncanny ability to pick great movies that explore the human experience and human psyche. With movies such as Se7en, Jesse James, Babel, Seven Years in Tibet, and now this hit from late 2008, Mr. Pitt has established himself as one of the top actors over the past 2 decades with great performances in multiple genres. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is probably Pitt's best work, as he carried the film. Unlike previous movies, he shares …
review by . May 26, 2009
2 hours and 45 minutes, be prepared. It's a long movie, no doubt about that. Aside from a bit of wandering at about 30 minutes in, the film really moves along at a good pace and, in the end, doesn't seem almost 3 hours long. It's a very enjoyable movie.    The bad about this film, the DVD transfer. This is one of the poorest DVD transfers I've seen in a very long time. In fact I'd almost forgotten what compression artifacts looked like. Oh my, they are present in this film. There's …
review by . February 25, 2009
Upon first introduction of this film, we know that it is based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The short story tells of a boy born as an old man who, within a few hours can talk and act as such. To avoid embarassment, Benjamins father forces him to dye his hair and play with the local children as a real child. All Benjamin wants to do is read, smoke cigars and have adult conversations as an adult would. Being a short story, you cannot really expect a feature film to be wholly adapted from …
review by . February 04, 2009
Everything about this movie was sad and bittersweet. The acting was wonderful and the basic premise is very interesting, but the tone throughout the movie was sadness and loss. I couldn't let go of that, and while I couldn't stop watching this beautiful movie, I was left with such melancholic thoughts that I suppose I wouldn't watch this movie again.
review by . April 24, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Very loosely based upon a short story by the great American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is a beautiful movie that is both personal in focus, but epic in scope. Set mostly in New Orleans, the film follows the life of a baby boy whose mother dies during his birth on Armistice Day, the end of WWI, November 11, 1918. The baby is so deformed that his father considers killing the child by dropping him in the river, but is stopped by a policeman. Startled the father …
About the reviewer
Eric Horwitz ()
Ranked #247
Ciao!     My world in a nutshell: Born in the humble beach town of Ventura, CA I went to UCLA with ambitions to pursue journalism and film. I studied literature and picked up Italian … more
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The technical dazzle ofThe Curious Case of Benjamin Buttonis a truly astonishing thing to behold: this story of a man who ages backwards requires Brad Pitt to begin life as a tiny elderly man, then blossom into middle age, and finally, wisely, become young. How director David Fincher--with makeup artists, special-effects wizards, and body doubles--achieves this is one of the main sources of fascination in the early reels of the movie. The premise is loosely borrowed from an F. Scott Fitzgerald story (and bears an even stronger resemblance to Andrew Sean Greer's novel The Confessions of Max Tivoli), with young/old Benjamin growing up in New Orleans, meeting the girl of his dreams (Cate Blanchett), and sharing a few blissful years with her until their different aging agendas send them in opposite directions. The love story takes over the second half of the picture, as Eric Roth's script begins to resemble his work on Forrest Gump. This is too bad, because Benjamin's early life is a wonderfully picaresque journey, especially a set of midnight liaisons with a Russian lady (Tilda Swinton) in an atmospheric hotel. Fincher observes all this with an entomologist's eye, cool and exacting, which keeps the material from getting all gooey. Still, the Hurricane Katrina framing story feels put-on, and the movie lets Benjamin slide offscreen during its later stages--curious indeed.--Robert Horton




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Details

Genre: Drama
DVD Release Date: May 5, 2009
Runtime: 166 minutes
Studio: Paramount
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