Saturday, December 06, 2008

TRH Movie - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

We had screening passes for this book through work and bundled ourselves up on a cold Sunday morning last weekend to make the 10 AM showing. Based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story of the same name (we're publishing a gorgeous, illustrated edition), the film stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. The movie opens on the eve of Hurricane Katrina where a daughter (Julia Ormond) sits beside her dying mother (Cate Blanchett) as the storm rages outside the hospital. This I would like to call the Titanic portion of the film -- the cliched way of telling a story by which an old, dying person brings out a long lost diary and begins to tell a fantastic tale. (Note this isn't always bad, let's use Big Fish as an example; I loved that movie). The film then moves back and forth from the life of Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) to the hospital as Daisy (Blanchett) dies. Thus begins what we were calling the Forrest Gump portion of the film, complete with many a token sayings that I will not repeat.

Being born with a strange and rare disease that causes him to age backwards, Benjamin Button's mother, who dies in childbirth, makes his father promise to always look after him. Of course, it's a film, so he promptly takes off with his oddly misshapen barely born baby and dumps him on the steps of a home for the elderly in New Orleans. Picked up by the woman who runs the home, Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) and raised as her own, Benjamin survives despite all of the odds. Here let's insert The Lord of the Rings-style special effects, as from a young child it's glaringly apparent that Benjamin is played by Brad Pitt, who portrays the character at many stages over the course of his life.

When Benjamin meets the young Daisy, his life changes and the two of them form an awkward, if not lovingly, friendship. He grows younger. She grows older. He leaves home to sail the seas. She leaves home to become a dancer. Things happen. They come back together. Other things happen. They meet again. More happens. Well, you get the picture. It's not that the movie isn't beautifully shot or wonderfully acted (it is; the performances are particularly good). It's not that the movie isn't about a half-hour too long (it is). It's not that the special effects aren't amazing (they are). It's just that the whole film felt like something I'd seen before, something that has been done before. A giant studio picture meant to get people to enjoy the spectacle (and sweet humour) of the amazing story. Like we both said when we left the theatre, it's not that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a bad film -- it's just not very original and I think that's what we were both hoping for, a touch of originality.


Rachel said...

I was lucky enough to be at the same screening and I couldn't find any Fitzgerald in it....

I cannot believe that you mention the Forrest Gump thing. My friend Verity and I were all over that....

and the Big Fish thing

and the Titanic thing and the Beautiful Mind-screaming-for-an-Oscar thing

The short story is interesting; this film cannot decide what it wants to be. Thus, the changes in tonality whirr past as quickly as Katrina.

Oh... and Tilda Swinton's point in the film was what again...?

Deanna McFadden said...

Who knows what Tilda Swinton's role in it was -- I'm guessing the studio heads said, "We can't wait until Act III for a love scene. We'd better add another character." Yawn.

Bob Dow said...

i was very disappointed with the film. it kept handing us the same lesson over and over again, unfortunately with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

they could have cut an hour and tightened the script by letting go of all of the dialogue and forced moments that were inserted to make sure we were getting the point.

the balloon flies away from the little girl... see? see? nothing stays! you never know what's coming for you!

gag me with a cliche.

A weird note, I noticed that Brad Pitt was emoting in a similar way that he did in Legends of The Fall in which Julia Ormond was his love interest!

This movies borrows pretty heavily from that film, Titanic, Forrest Gump, Sea Biscuit and others...

There are a lot of nice pieces, we have just seen them all before.