The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Directed by: David Fincher
Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett
Running Time: 2 hrs 45 mins
Plot: After being born to an affluent New Orleans family and abandoned minutes later due to his disturbing appearance, young Benjamin Button seems anything but -- his skin is wrinkly, his hair is white, his bones are arthritic and his eyes are spotted with cataracts. But that doesn't stop Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), who manages a nursing home, from adopting him as her own. As time passes, Benjamin seems to be getting healthier, stronger and younger with each passing day. It isn't long before he meets Daisy (Cate Blanchett), then a young girl, who changes his very strange life forever.
As time passes, and Benjamin gets younger, his loved ones get older. Each minute brings them all closer to death—albeit from very different directions—and also, in some very unexpected ways, toward life.
Who’s It For? Because of its sizable running time, kids are better left at home. But the film’s unique premise gives it extremely broad appeal and makes it a perfect Christmas flick (if a bit heavy).
Expectations:There’s a certain limit on audience expectations when it comes to fantasy plots like this one, but its enough to get people in the door. Then there are surprises aplenty.
Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button: Oddly, because of the effects wizardry that goes into making Pitt look both older and younger at each stage of life, it’s tough to tell how much of Benjamin as we see and hear him is actually Pitt an any given time. And yet we feel the dry, minimalist quality of Pitt’s technique at every step. His isn’t a terribly memorable performance, but his character is interesting enough (and yet somehow simple enough) to work well with its actor’s admittedly limited skill set. Score: 7
Cate Blanchett as Daisy: Hers’ is without question the strongest performance in the film, especially in the frame story. We see her change constantly and realistically, and we’re able to effectively see Benjamin through her prism. Blanchett once again proves she’s not only a great complement to Pitt (the two also starred together in the 2006 film Babel) she also reasserts herself as one of her generation’s finest. Score: 9
Talking: The film is crammed with lush characters, and it’s the dialogue that helps animate them. Eric Roth has woven a rich story around Benjamin’s life, much of it resting on the often fragile relationships between characters. These relationships continually complicate and intensify, and the payoff at the end makes the ride worthwhile.
Sights: Though the film doesn’t feel effects-heavy, there’s no question that it is. Besides making the main characters look both older and younger at the appropriate points, CGI is used to help fill in the backdrops of many of the scenes and add to the action, like when Benjamin’s fishing boat encounters a German U-Boat, and combat ensures. This, though, is how digital effects should be employed—to help tell the story, not single-handedly make the story. Score: 10
Sounds: Beautifully scored and flawlessly mixed, Benjamin Button is a round technical achievement. The soundtrack, not unlike Pitt’s performance, is underplayed purposefully so when it is punched up, the audience takes notice. Score: 10
Best Scene: The closing scene, as the strings are drawn around the elaborate web of Benjamin’s life, is an emotional powerhouse—wonderfully shot, scored, performed and edited. It’s what a film is supposed to be.
Ending: It’s impossible to spoil this movie. What we all expect to happen in the end…well…happens. But it isn’t the ending itself that makes the film—it’s how the audience is able to respond to it that speaks volumes about Fincher’s achievement.
Questions: What exactly happens to Daisy in the end? I feel better not knowing, but the curiosity is still there.
Rewatchability: Though it’s long, it’s just too damn good to not see again (and in my case, again and again and again).
Benjamin Button is a delightful mix between Forest Gump and The Notebook, but in many ways it’s better than both those films. Everything seems to fall into the place in the final moments, symbolism appears everywhere, and in one of those rare moments in movies today, things just crystallize.
The film’s length is its only real downside, but even this is forgivable because the time isn’t wasted. Fincher uses it to get to the core of the story, which deals with the very universal (if a bit clichéd) theme of how we live our lives, versus how long.
It does what many films aren’t doing; it allows secondary characters to carry the film and make the main players even better for it. Pitt is surrounded by Grade A talent from all over the globe (Tilda Swinton and Jason Flemyng, just to name a few) and the result is, hands down, one of the best films this year.
Final Score: 9/10