The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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curious case of benjamin

Why does this picture make me think of Steve Martin in The Jerk?

Forrest Gump called. He wants his movie back.

Oh wait, this was written by the same guy who wrote Forrest Gump, so perhaps it gets a pass. I just wish Eric Roth wouldn’t have used Gump as a crutch for his writing. He’s had some good work (The Horse Whisperer, The Insider), and some bad (The Postman).

This is based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but needed more of that wit that F. Scott had in the original piece.

It was directed by David Fincher (Zodiac), who used Brad Pitt well in Fight Club. And Pitt is great in this movie, and surely deserves an Oscar nomination. The problem is that he played a similar character in Meet Joe Black, and it made more sense. He was passive, a tad charming, and it worked. He was confused by his surroundings because he was an angel. In this, most of the time we’re not sure why Pitt has a confused look on his face.

I thought of a good analogy about how this movie disappointed me. Think about meeting somebody that’s 95-years-old, who you sit down with. You’re anxious to hear about their life experiences. You think you’re in for a profound conversation, and he just talks about drinking moonshine in Kentucky. You eventually feel you need to prod him into other directions, and so you ask him about the War. He then spends an hour telling you about a jeep he was always working on during the war, and you eventually give up hope on getting anything meaningful out of him. You’re happy you spend an hour listening to his stories, but would’ve liked to have heard different stories from him. Well, that’s kind of what I felt like with this movie. That’s not to say it wasn’t interesting at times, or the cast wasn’t good. They were stellar. You just expect more from a film that has gotten 13 Oscar nominations (the make-up and special effects awards were all well-deserved).

Everyone knows the story at this point – Benjamin Button was born the opposite – as an old man that gradually gets younger. Mixed in are messages about time, fate, coincidence…it’s a rather lofty goal.

The film starts with Hurricane Katrina, where a dying Daisy (Cate Blanchett) is being told the story from her daughter (Julia Ormond), reading from a diary. Just like Forrest Gump running through various times in the 20th Century, here we go again.

There are a few clever sequences. One in which an accident causes Daisy to lose her ballerina skills. Another involves a war sequence. There’s a goofy scene with a hummingbird that people are either going to love or hate. I hated it.

Yet so many of the scenes fell flat. The relationship with Tilda Swinton was written so poorly, you wondered what she saw in him. That being said, it’s a thrill to watch Swinton act, and she’s one of the most underrated actresses working today.

I would’ve liked Button to have evolved a bit more, instead of appearing like a simpleton much of the time. It would’ve helped also if there was a bit more chemistry between he and Daisy.

The movie is slowly paced, which wouldn’t have been a problem if 45 minutes were lopped off the 2 hour and 45 minute length.

Oh, and the most disturbing thing ever, is Button meeting Daisy when she’s a little girl and he’s an old man. Nothing wrong with that, except their puppy love is creepy when he’s an old dude flirting with her. Yes, we understand…mentally they’re the same age, but still. I’m watching a man under the table with her and it’s just…icky. Then when  they meet and they’re the same age, wouldn’t that be freaky to both of them? She remembers him as an old geezer, and he remembers her as a little kid. Bizarre.

This is certainly the most ambitious movie of the year. And it’s going to be the movie that emotionally moves a lot of people. It could’ve been the epic picture it strived to be, but I left the theatre disappointed.

I’m giving it a C-.