the fresh films reviews

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

David Fincher
Den fantastiske historien om Benjamin Button
166 minutes
Céan Chaffin
Kathleen Kennedy
Frank Marshall
Screenwriter (based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald):
Eric Roth

Cast includes:

Benjamin Button Brad Pitt ½
Daisy Cate Blanchett ½
Queenie Taraji P. Henson
Caroline Julia Ormond ½
Thomas Button Jason Flemyng ½
Tizzy Mahershalalhashbaz Ali
Captain Mike Jared Harris ½
Monsieur Gateau Elias Koteas
Theodore Roosevelt Ed Metzger
Grandma Fuller Phyllis Somerville
Pleasant Curtis Josh Stewart
Elizabeth Abbott Tilda Swinton
Daisy - Age 6 Elle Fanning



Some critics have argued that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button borrows too much from Forrest Gump - another tentatively magical journey along a curious life, if you like. I suppose this is an easy target, seeing as both films are written by the same screenwriter, but for me, it is not a valid argument. In fact, I have been looking forward to the next film which can boast similar qualities as Forrest Gump could. Unfortunately, I cannot find enough of them in this film.

Still, director David Fincher's third teaming-up with Brad Pitt is an interesting and attractive film which combines pieces of fantasy with pieces of history to tell its backwards chronological story of the life of one Benjamin Button - a man who was born as an elderly baby and dies as, well, a regular baby. The life in itself might not be terribly interesting or relevant (as the filmmakers want us to think), neither when it comes to his achievements nor his love life, but the film still strikes an emotional note through how our present-day protagonist (Ormond) perceives and relates to Button's story.

The realization of the man's anti-aging-process is nothing short of dazzling, however. Brad Pitt's performance is fine, but it is the brilliant make-up (definite Oscar-winner) and technology which take command as Pitt goes from a bald and wrinkled 90-year-old to a baby-faced teenager during the course of only a handful of hours. I cannot quite decide whether it is a testament to the make-up department or a blow to the film's dramatic value that I found myself evaluating Brad Pitt's looks more than I did empathizing with Benjamin Button's rather unusual condition.

Whereas Gump was a naïve, unassuming film, Benjamin Button feels more constructed and less spontaneous. This doesn't mean the film doesn't work as a drama, but it means that the fantasy elements don't come off quite as magical and captivating as wanted. The lives of the characters are well intertwined and Fincher directs with style and poise (helped by the amazing Alexandre Desplat), but Pitt and Blanchett can't quite bring justice to the scale and scope of the film's romantic subplot. Actually, their love, when it finally materialises, seems to be borne out of plight rather than passion. Reportedly, F. Scott Fitzgerald's source material was more comedic in tone and didn't focus as much on romance as does the film. In my opinion, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button would have profited from staying that way.


Copyright © 18.1.2009 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang