The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Since the Oscars aren’t that far away now, I vowed to myself to see the most of the main contenders before the ceremony so I could be appropriately glad/scandalised when the winners are announced. So, since the Best Picture award is probably either going to “Slumdog Millionaire” or “…Benjamin Button” I thought I’d better check the latter out.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

I’m a big fan of David Fincher’s. He’s got a dynamic and unique style that changes from film to film and favours the “darker” films like “Fight Club” and “Se7en” (yes, that is how you spell it). In my opinion he’s like a good version of Tim Burton- i.e. sticks to his guns but changes his approach, which is more can be said for a certain Mr. Burton… Rhyming aside, “…Benjamin Button” seems like an odd choice for Fincher to direct due to its lighter nature and more family-friendly ideals.

“What if I told you that instead of gettin’ older, I was gettin’ younger than everybody else?”

The film is loosely based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story of the same name (not, as a few believe, on Karl Pilkington’s insane ramblings) where the titular Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) is born with the biology of a pensioner. As he grows up, he grows younger, and falls in love with Daisy (Cate Blanchett). As stories go, it’s a great one with plenty of possibilities to explore the human condition and the folly of man. My first problem with this film is that it doesn’t do any of that. With a person ageing backwards, you’d think that there would be some chances to get at something deeper than the (admittedly sad) fact that the boy has arthiritis and has to go around in a wheelchair. It just seems like a missed opportunity to me. Both Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are very good, but that’s hardly a shock.

Many people have remarked that “…Benjamin Button” is very similar to 1994 Oscar winning film “Forrest Gump” which is no surprise really as Eric Roth wrote both screenplays. I mean the film even has it’s own version of the famous “Life is like a box of chocolates…” line! However, it was only a couple of days after seeing the film that I realised this to be true, so I wouldn’t really pay too much heed to that. The make-up and general ageing/de-ageing effects are genuinely jaw-dropping and if they don’t win the Oscar for Make-Up at the end of February, my World won’t make sense anymore.My second problem with the film is that it’s clearly pandering to the Academy crowd. We have someone struggling through life against adversity, a dancer, some mention of war and all those other “award-y” type qualities that Oscar winning films tend to have. What was refreshing about “No Country for Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood” last year is that they did away with those hackneyed conventions and were therefore solely judged on what they brought to the table. “…Benjamin Button” feels like a step backwards in this respect, with outcomes of characters and plot changes being predictable because of it. If you can’t work out that something bad is going to happen to Daisy’s dancing career you need to stop watching films and get back into your corner, you dunce.

Lastly, why the flying fuck did the film feel the need to include some stuff about Hurricane Katrina and the Waves? It’s like they said “If the sad tale of Benjamin Button doesn’t get ’em blubbing, the recent memories of Katrina will…” By the end, it seems like the film is throwing everything it can at you to try and make you cry. Thing is, I didn’t. I felt that I should have been too, with all that had transpired over the three hours. I’m not the Terminator or anything, as I had a little cry at “Wall-E” when I saw it. If a children’s animated film can make me cry and not a big, prestige pic then you have problems.

“Your life is defined by its opportunities… even the ones you miss.
Despite all my whinging above, I really liked “…Benjamin Button”. It was funny at times (the lightning strikes were feckin’ hilarious) as well as heartwarming. I get the feeling that Fincher had his style cramped a little by the studio after they decided it was going to be their big award film though, which is a bit of a shame. Whilst not as good as “Slumdog Millionaire”, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is definitely worth checking out. !ti dnemoccer I

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