The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Born with a strange condition, Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) ages in reverse, beginning as a frail old man and growing progressively younger. Eventually falling in love with family friend Daisy (Cate Blanchett) the pair make a go of it despite the obvious problems of ageing in different directions.

Despite respected director David Fincher re-teaming with favourite muse Brad Pitt, those expecting something along the lines of Se7en or Fight Club will be disappointed. Instead, we get a lush and epic loose-adaptation of acclaimed novelist F Scott Fitzgerald's 1921 short-story that is more intellectually-stimulating than it is can't-take-your-eyes-away engrossing. Sure, there's a lot to be admired here (flawless period detail, some nice touches of humour, impeccable aging effects), but the end product isn't nearly as interesting as the premise itself.

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In addition, given that we've got a passively-blank hero witnessing significant American historical events in a script penned by Eric Roth, the early comparisons to Forrest Gump are justifiable. However, where Hanks' yarn was warm, glowy and infinitely-watchable, this is a sombre affair seen through much less romantic eyes and with less than half the heart. Though Fincher should be applauded for sneaking a provoking think-piece into the mainstream, it's often too hard to care about Benjamin's predicament as the focus centres on the relenting unstoppable nature of time as opposed to how our hero feels about it.

We do get a few beautiful moments (like Benjamin sharing a sunset with his biological father, the sight of a finally Brad Pitt-like Pitt embracing his youth by flying past on a motorbike, Daisy’s dancing silhouette), but you just can't escape the unmistakable air of melancholy. Requiring a lot of patience and investment from the viewer (this point cannot be overstated enough), the 167-minute running time might be required to span Benjamin's life, but as the three-hour mark approaches you wonder if it's ever going to finish and feel better about Return Of The King's 17 different endings.

Interestingly, it also has a lot in common with the titular character. Early doors things are very (very) slow and there's a lot of ambling around trying to find sure footing. In the middle things peak in terms of beauty and enjoyment as our star-crossed lovers 'catch-up' in terms of age. At the end there's a deep-laced sense of tragedy. The Pittster does do his best with a restrained and mature performance, but he's about as shackled by Benjamin's condition as the character is.

Many critics have been hailing it as Fincher’s Magnum opus and the Oscar guys will likely throw trophies galore at it, but The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button is an acquired-taste of a movie. At one point Brad Pitt's clock-defying protagonist responds to tales of the button factory by stating “that’s very, very interesting”. It's a shame the same can't be said about the picture itself.

Reviewed on: 09 Feb 2009
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Fantasy about a man who ages backwards, from old to young.
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Chris **

Director: David Fincher

Writer: Eric Roth, Eric Roth, Robin Swicord

Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Julia Ormond, Faune A. Chambers, Elias Koteas, Donna DuPlantier, Jacob Tolano, Earl Maddox, Ed Metzger, Jason Flemyng, Danny Vinson

Year: 2008

Runtime: 166 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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