Aug 13, 2010

[Movies] The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)I don't always agree with the major award-giving bodies in terms of their nominations. Sometimes I feel that they feel almost obligated certain movies because of the clout the studios throw around or just the sheer amount of resources that went into the development of a certain film. And thus it feels that not all movies are measured solely on the merits of their own worth but more the Hollywood politics behind it. Of course this is all speculation, but I think I'm coming from a sensible place in terms of why I think this way.

And I feel bad when people sort of go with the Hollywood marketing machine and feel movies are pretty amazing when maybe they're not quite as good as they present themselves to be. Then again, who am I to judge the opinions of others - if I have a dissenting voice, then I'm free to express it. But this holds true for as long as people don't feel the need to argue with me in order to convince me of why I'm wrong. Healthy debate is good but don't push your luck by dragging things out too long, hehe.

And so I feel this is one of those reviews that present a somewhat opposing opinion to what is popularly accepted. I'm just glad I never wasted money on buying a copy of this movie.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is an adaptation of a short story of the same name. Why such short stories turn into nearly three hour movies is beyond me. It must be a Hollywood thing.

WESTWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 08:  CEO of Paramount ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
The movie follows the strange life of Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) as told by a dying old woman Daisy (Cate Blanchett) to her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond). What made Benjamin's story so strange is the fact that he was born an old man - a very small one. For some reason he appears to be aging in reverse despite having a mind appropriate to his age. His original parents abandoned him due to his strangeness and instead he is adopted by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) and Tizzy (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), two African workers at a nursing home.

And thus begins his life as the youngest old man at the nursing home. As the residents pass on one by one, he slowly becomes younger and younger and thus in better and better health. But even in his youth (relatively speaking), he finds himself attracted to Daisy, the granddaughter of one of the residents at the nursing home. But since he appears to be an old man and Daisy is only six-years old when he meets her, nothing can come of this affection. But it becomes a lifelong love for her that he doesn't abandon as he grows younger and Daisy becomes older in turn.

The movie is clearly positioned as a love story and I can certainly respect the goal here. A livelong love for a woman that he can't seem to match in terms of age is an interesting one to be sure. However I feel they somewhat failed in terms of execution and instead we're left with a very long and winding tale with too many stopover points.

My partner felt they were trying to pull off some sort of a Tom Hanks kind of piece akin to Forrest Gump. I can certainly appreciate this perspective - they certainly introduced a significant enough characters with their own back stories in order to give the potential for that kind of somehow "heartwarming" storytelling. However things became a tad cumbersome and the movie turns into an awkward juggling act of all these different perspectives and sub-plots. I feel things became so cluttered that it became detrimental to the love story at the core of the tale, which was supposed to be the focus.

To be fair, the only awards this movie managed were more for technical achievement. In this respect, the movie was certainly impressive and they did a rather decent job of presenting the reverse aging process of Benjamin. Sure, it was a tad disturbing to see the weird juxtaposition of Brad Pitt's head on a smaller yet somehow older body. There were those odd moments when Brad Pitt didn't look younger and just suddenly into heavy make-up. The real achievement when they showed Benjamin in his mid-20's and he certainly looked pretty good.

I didn't really feel the chemistry between Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in this movie. Then again, it was hard to read emotions off of Brad Pitt entirely. I felt his performance in this movie felt way too much like his weird, pseudo-emotionless performance in Meet Joe Black. I suppose it comes as no surprise to readers like you that I didn't really like that movie despite the somewhat hot bedroom scene in that movie, hehe. But going back, it didn't help that Cate does tend to have rather understated performances period with timely and elegant moments of elevated passion.

The movie just felt too long to me, and that's not about the actual length. It's really about how the storytelling was handled and how the pacing was managed. There are very long movies out there that are a pleasure to watch and don't feel the least bit like they run longer than two hours. This ended up feeling like it was more than 6 hours long and like it didn't want to end. I don't care about that little skirmish with the tugboat crew. I didn't need all those weird supposedly metaphorical moments with that guy who was struck by lightning so many times. These all felt unnecessary and ultimately like distractions from the core story they wanted to tell.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was certainly a technical achievement as a movie and a laudable goal to create, however I feel it fell short in its execution in the end. It gets 2 hours of Brad Pitt's southern drawl out of a possible 5.
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