Movie Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Published by Clay Cane on Thursday, December 25, 2008 at 12:52 am.

Reviewed by: Clay Cane

Summary: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is based on the 1920 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, one man’s take on the complexities of life while aging backwards.  Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) is born with a “disorder,” he looks and feels like an eighty-year old at birth.  He is rejected by his father and adopted by Queenie, played by the up and coming Tariji P. Henson.  Button falls madly in love with Daisy (Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett) and his life becomes more complicated as Daisy ages and Button is getting younger.

Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a film that you are supposed to love.  An A-list cast, massive amounts of hype, directed by David Fincher (Panic Room, Zodiac), and visually brilliant.  Nonetheless, when you strip away the cinematic airbrushing, Button falls short of its epic glory.  Yes, Button can be glorious, but the Hollywood glamour drowns the soul that it so needs.  Plus, there is the insistent reminder that we will all lose our looks and die.

Button’s most tragic mishap is the full two hours and forty minutes.  The emotional impact Button wants you to feel is dampened by the endless running time.  Heavy editing and tightening of the handy morals would’ve fulfilled the lacking vigor.  There is no reason any film should be this long unless it’s a miniseries.  But, the creators of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button seem more concerned about the possibility of awards (Pitt has been clawing for that Oscar for years!) than being a solid film.  As the cliché goes, less is more.

Benjamin Button wants to be this generation’s Forrest Gump, but falls curiously short.  The curiosity is killed when you discover Eric Roth, the screenwriter, was the same screenwriter for 1994’s Forrest Gump.

With all of that said, one cannot deny the intriguing plot and what is probably an even more engaging short story.  The fleetingness of time (Lord knows, time is passing while you are watching this film), the inevitably of death, and some key lines that zings your soul are scenarios we can all relate to.

Another redemptive quality, the flawless acting, Pitt and Blanchett deliver… even though some scenes feel like an Ikea commercial when they dance in their new apartments and travel the world.

The true standout is Tariji P. Henson, who is incredibly underrated.  Henson has the complex job of humanizing a character who can easily fall in the stereotypical role of the mammy figure.  Regardless, Henson gives Queenie a soul, pulling her out of mammyville and making her an essential element to the plot.

There are moments when you are just about to fall in love with Benjamin — the Hurricane Katrina storyline is an unexpected turn, the mysticism of a city clock, and the diverse characters.  Still, Button just doesn’t quite enchant the viewer.  It needed more edge, less glamour, and a strong dose of soul.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is in theaters today

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