Kevin's Review: David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - A Timely Tale of Life
by Kevin Powers
December 24, 2008
Just in time for the holidays and the New Year comes The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a delicate, thought-provoking film that is surely going to evoke feelings of thanks and hope. It's not in my nature to be particularly tender, but director David Fincher's adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story will have even the most cynical person sit in optimistic wonderment. Much of the film's intrigue is found in the beautiful dichotomies it richly presents - life can be exceeding short or long, love can be numerous and singular, and the mind and body aren't always the same age. Button is classic storytelling in the finest sense, sprawling in epic scale, complex in feeling, and overflowing in meaning.
At the end of WWI, a shriveled, crippled infant is born to a mother that died in labor and a well-to-do father who owns a button factory in New Orleans. Overcome, the father abandons the child at an old folks' home, at which point a caring housemaid name Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) takes him in as her own. The child, Benjamin (Brad Pitt), is born with a catalog of infirmities one usually only exhibits at the end of their life, not at the beginning. To no explanation, Benjamin continues to grow, loosing his ailments and gaining energy with each passing year. Eventually, his curiosity and vigor gets the best of him, and he leaves Queenie and his aged friends to see the world by way of a tugboat and its surly captain (Jared Harris).
Fincher's rendering of Benjamin's early (or late) life is nothing short of remarkable. The physical presentation will leave you stunned, as you can clearly discern Pitt's features and expressions through the wrinkles and glasses, but it's certainly not the actor's body. As Benjamin's mind grows, too, Fincher explores what someone with an 80-year-old body and a 10-year-old mind might get into. And that's part of makes Button so accessible: the humor. The film's comedy comes across deftly authentic and never artificial.
Underpinning Button is Benjamin's love for Daisy (Cate Blanchett). They meet while Benjamin is in Queenie's care, a friendship which proves complicated considering the tangible difference in age. Throughout their respective lives, the two manage to stay in each others' thoughts and eventually meet at a time where both are nearly the same age. The push and pull, distance and closeness between Benjamin and Daisy is a weathered and touching relationship that comes appropriately full-circle, with, thankfully, little triteness of cliché. Even I can appreciate when the two "meet in the middle."
While I would positively consider Button a classic, I can't say that all of its elements are wholly original. Screenwriter Eric Roth also wrote for Forrest Gump, influences from which you'll readily feel in the film. Equally familiar is the framing device for the story. We learn of Benjamin's life by way of an old, hospitalized Daisy and her daughter, who is reading to her from Benjamin's diary. This smells a bit like Titanic, if you ask me. And you might even detect a scent of Interview with the Vampire by way of Pitt narrating his life, the same as he did in Anne Rice's story. These recognizable characteristics don't mitigate Button in any material sense, they just aren't on the level of originality as Fincher's visuals.
Pitt and Blanchett, too, aren't particularly remarkable in their performances. For a film that left me so inspired and awed, I was surprised to realize that none of the actors really stood out, save for Tilda Swinton as Benjamin's first great love. In any other movie a lackluster lead might prove fatal. But for Fincher's film, the story and emotional spectrum of the film is enough to buoy Button into the halls of classic storytelling. Like life, the film isn't perfect. But as the sum is usually greater than its parts, and a life should be judged on its entirety, Fincher's Button is a moving experience not to be missed. Especially at this time of year.
Reader Feedback - 25 Comments
I will totally watch this once I find 2 1/2 hours to kill.
Kolya on Dec 24, 2008
Wow. Everyone has said Pitt put on an amazing performance. Certainly a different take...
Itri on Dec 24, 2008
the short story was alright [F. Scott Fitzgerald]. i'm sure they changed alot of the story for the movie. like Cate's character name in the book was Hildegarde. and i'm sure many others. but the changes, i bet, doesn't really matter. The movie looks AMAZING. cant wait to watch it. fo sho.
ayee, its faye on Dec 24, 2008
I know this movie is amazing. Brad Pitt is a genius when it comes to chosing his movie roles. The guy who wrote forrest gump writing this movie is enough to see it, let alone all the amazing aspects and underlying themes of it. Ken's usually quite tough on every movie reveiw so i know his 8.5 is a 9.5 in my book.
Steven on Dec 24, 2008
Just saw it and he did do an amazing job, totally agree with Alex. He's not a reactor, things happen to him as he's discovering the world in a completely unique way. The loneliness he feels is so subtle and never really shown outwardly. He's got a warmth and a great spirit similar to Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump. It's such a touching performance, I'd say he's got a great shot at the Oscar... or atleast the Golden Globe. I did wish Roth could have kept closer to the original short story and didn't take so many plot devices from other films, like Kevin mentioned. Blanchetts perf was great, but nothing too special for her, it did remind me way to much of Robin Wright Penn in Gump.
adrian on Dec 25, 2008
I loved this film as well. Though I would certainly disagree with calling Fincher or Roth "unoriginal" for using elements that have been used in other films. Are there any films made anymore that are completely original? In terms of story perhaps, but it terms of how the story is told, I would say no. Devices like narration from a diary, etc. were no more original in "Titanic" or "Interview" than they were with this film. Fincher and Roth were smart in using these simple but effective ways in telling their story. Brilliance is in simplicity, a truth that is often forgotten in todays Hollywood where filmmakers are sometimes more concerned with standing out than telling a story.
conor on Dec 26, 2008
I disagree about Pitt and Blanchett...I had tired of seeing her as an actress but I really liked her, and more for her performance than her beauty. I can't say I've been impressed with her like this since Lord of the Rings. Pitt did a great job as Benjamin at every age....I found this to be an emotionally taxing film that will go down as a classic in cinema history. I loved it.
trig. on Dec 27, 2008
Forrest Gump, Titanic and IWV...I thought the exact same things when I saw this but I thought it made the movie weak how reminiscent it was to past movies. I disagree about it becoming a classic. I really loved the first half of the movie but it really started to fall apart for me towards the end. I felt like it lagged so much the last 30 minutes that it almost ruined the whole thing for me. While I did think Brad and Cate's performances were definitely strong I didn't feel like they were outstanding. I thought it was good and I enjoyed it but I didn't think it was as remarkable as what others thought.
Janet on Dec 28, 2008
This movie was long but soooo good. Pitt, Cate, & Henson (woman playing Benjamins mother) were great. I'd recommend it to anyone. "Did I ever tell you I was struck by lightning seven times." Lol. My rating is 9-10
Black Dynamite on Dec 28, 2008
This was good, but not great and is not without it's flaws. From a technical stand-point, it's great. The visual effects are incredible, cinematography excellent... it is a very aesthetically pleasing film. The smoke and mirrors can't mask all the problems though. The hospital scenes used as a framing device definitely weaken the film, giving it an almost hallmark "made for tv" feeling... just too hollywood and too cheese in my opinion. Although Pitt and Blanchett are both solid, I don't think Pitt's performance here is anymore award worthy than his superior performance in last year's, "The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford." Some of the supporting performances were a little much, particularly Taraji P. Henson, who plays her part more like a caricature, as opposed to a living, breathing person the audience can believe in. Personally, I love Fincher and he has not made a bad film, but this one was slightly disappointing all things considered.
OJ on Dec 31, 2008
I loved the movie. its rare to see an almost 3 hour drama that holds your attention throughout.
cali on Jan 1, 2009
Incredible film...Go to enjoy and don't get caught up in the fantasy of it. There is a powerful message here given by amazing actors. I loved it!
Cassie C on Jan 2, 2009
I saw Benjamin Button two nights ago and I can say it may be the best film I have ever seen, along with FINDING NEVERLAND. Brad Pitt as so good, so understated, and his voice over was stirring and spellbinding. Cate Blanchett was superb and Tilda Swinton was, well, Tilda Swinton--but very good. Queenie was special, as were all the characters. Benjamin was totally convincing as he grew younger discovering life buried in the body of an old man. What is so unbelievable for me is that this is Brad Pitt. Wekk he is 40+ so I guess he found his true essence. I went with seven other people and to a person this is the Oscar movie for us (and none of us is easy on movies--we are more like critics ourselves). So, listen up, Academy members. BEST PICTURE: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. BEST ACTOR: BRAD PITT. And while I am at it: BEST ACTRESS: KATE WINSLETT for REVOLUTIONARY ROAD; HEATH LEDGER for DARK KNIGHT and PENELOPSE CRUZ for VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
Albert on Jan 3, 2009
This movie will definately be a classic. My favourite characteristic of this movie is that it's all being read aloud from a diary. It's simply unique! My only probleme with the movie is that it was a little too long. They could've shortened it. 9.0/10
Dig Dawg on Jan 3, 2009
This movie is amazing! The acting and dialogue is perfect. It's not some movie made purely for intertainment, it really make you think about life and people dying and moving on even though they meant a lot to you. Brad Pitt leads an amazing cast. The actors do a terrific job of creating an immensely emotional and heartfelt atmosphere. I cried 3 times... almost cried a few other times. I didn't know what to expect when i walked into the theater, but i was blown away like no other. It is 2.5 hours long, but it's definately a movie that you don't want to miss out on. Plus it keeps your attention, doesn't drag on at all that i noticed. Probably one of the best movies i'll see this year, if not the best. 10/10
Scott M on Jan 5, 2009
This should go down as a classic. Forrest Gump beware a new masterpeice has come to town.
Anonymous on Jan 6, 2009
FANTASTIC! It was, compared to what other rubbish Hollywood has pushed out recently, an original and rather fresh movie. The length, although long, was needed. It was Benjiman's tale, his life story, you can't shorten a life story. The meaning was beautiful and the lines, and the speech by Pitt, was excellent. Sometimes you see a movie, and they just don't pull off the sappy lines and meaning, and sound silly. This was perfect and, to a degree, believable. I think it actually taught me something. All the characters, despite a few slips in Blanchett's Southern accent, were casted and played beautifully. They truly all were different and odd. Made me cry and laugh. All the quirks of the elderly folk in the house were rather realisitic. I say, go see it, enjoy it, look at the sky with a different perspective, but don't take liquid of any form with you. 11/10.
Narkness on Jan 14, 2009
mark on Jan 19, 2009
i am shocked at how Eric Roth and Fincher are getting away with this. The similarities between Button and Gump run way deeper than to receive a minor note in the review. Gump and Button are the same character, driven by the same immature desires, and in love with the same fickle women. Button doesn't say anything different than Gump. The themes are basically verbatim. The difference comes in Pitt/Blanchett. Neither of them gave the characters any dramatic weight. Button never seems to really struggle in this movie; his darkest moments are shrugged off in a dreamy, detached-from-reality optimism that cripples his growth as a living, breathing, and feeling person. He is a blank, empty shell who spouts nothing but cliched, half baked philosophical colloquialisms. Compare the scenes where Gump and Button find out they are going to be fathers, and deal with the fact that their children may have the same handicap/deformity as they. The fear passes right through Buttons ears where Gump nearly breaks down. It seems to me that Button is the more mentally handicapped, since Gump actually expressed emotions I could empathize with. Fincher is far too talented to be regurgitating someone else's regurgitated ideas. I mean come on, Roth is nominated for an Oscar. this is disgusting.
ejs on Jan 25, 2009
'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' is a complete package of great direction, stunning acting performance and captivating story line. The complicated characters in the movie have been skillfully portrayed by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. To top it all, digital technology has been creatively used to depict historical scenes from the teens and early 20's showing them as old movies!
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Lota Laggui on Aug 30, 2009
canon g11 on Sep 7, 2009
Total piece of over-hyped shit! Completely dumb story. Does Benjamin eventually revert back to a freaking sperm? Tried really hard to be a heart-wrenching epic like Gump, but missed the shrimp boat completely. Just Pitt acting as Pitt again with a pathetic Gump-wanna-be Southern accent.
Lokiluvcocky on Sep 14, 2009
For me it was one of the best story i have seen in a long long time.Brad pitt did a wonderful job.nomintaed in Oscar too unlucky not to get the best film award.
Plastic Injection Molding on Nov 16, 2009
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