Monday, February 16, 2009

Day Seven: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) - Rank 4.5/5


A three-hour movie based upon a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald? Is that possible? It's David Fincher. Looking back on the director's career, I honestly can't say I've disliked any film he's helmed. Se7en, Zodiac and Fight Club are all masterful films, though they never earned Fincher the recognition he deserves. At least with Benjamin Button, he's now got a Best Director nomination under his belt, though I doubt he's win - I'm banking on Stephen Daldry for that. Don't let that dissuade you from seeing the film. By far, it's one of the most gorgeous films I've seen all year. The art direction and cinematography are simply fantastic. It's daunting enough to tackle a period piece for any era, but to direct a film that ascends from the 1930's to present day with multiple stops along the way, and to do so flawlessly, is nothing short of miraculous.

Brad Pitt does an excellent job as the titular character, adding humor to the quiet sadness that comes with his bizarre affliction (if you genuinely are unfamiliar with the premise, Button it a character that ages backwards as time progresses). I love the portion of the film that centers around his early years, growing up in a retirement home under the guise that he's just another resident. The makeup on Pitt is outstanding (I suspect it will earn the Best Makeup Oscar) as is the job done on Cate Blanchett (Blanchett certainly deserved a nomination for this role - I found her performance to that of Pitt's and he did cinch a nom). The film starts off with Blanchett's character, Daisy, on her deathbed as Hurricane Katrina approaches New Orleans. The movie is presented in "Princess Bride-O-Vision" as her daughter reads Button's journal, treating the audience with lucid flashbacks. This also allows for multiple stops in the storyline to flash back to the future - a trick I found a little distracting.

Nevertheless, this method of storytelling doesn't detract from the bizarrely beautiful love story between Daisy and Benjamin over the course of several decades. The climax is nothing short of "gut-wrenching" (I recall mentioning to Bennett who'd joined me for this viewing that while I find that phrase overused by the media, there was no other term I could describe the way I was physically moved by the film's storyline and tone). While the film could have been trimmed here and there to reduce length (Button's affair with a British married woman in Russia went on a bit long), never does it actually feel near three hours in length. Truly a sign of excellent filmmaking.

Watch the Trailer

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