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Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The (2008)

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Score: 8/10

Genre: Fantasy and Romantic Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 46 min.

Release Date: December 25th, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: David Fincher Actors: Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt, Julia Ormond, Faune Chambers, Elias Koteas, Donna Duplantier, Jason Flemyng, Joeanna Sayler, Taraji P. Henson, Jared Harris, Elle Fanning, Tilda Swinton

“T

he Curious Case of Benjamin Button” so uniquely approaches its subjects of life and death that viewers won’t be able to stop themselves from getting wrapped up in the moving interpretations of love, existence, and mortality. Director David Fincher’s latest endeavor (based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald and adapted by Eric Roth) garners an epic feel, not from its rather lengthy runtime, but from spectacular storytelling and intricate character development (or, perhaps, un-development). At a slight loss for properly sentimental drama and with more than a few borrowed elements from notable predecessors, the occasional miss can’t detract from the amazing journey at hand – one heavy on imaginative imagery and crowd-pleasing entertainment value.

As Daisy (Cate Blanchett) lies dying in a New Orleans hospital, she has her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) read to her from a mysterious diary that chronicles the peculiar life of Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). Born as an old man, Button steadily grows younger each day – as everyone around him ages normally. With no scientific reasoning and no cure available, a majestic tragedy unfolds, filled with adventure, intrigue, and a powerful romance that transcends the restrictions of time.

It’s a meditation on life, death, time, fate, forgiveness, love, and every emotional experience in between. Most often the film alternates between notes of beauty, romanticism, and melancholy, but it suffers from the futility of a predestined course. Although it borrows memorable elements from “Titanic” (such as narration by an older character reminiscing on the past) and “Forrest Gump” (a hummingbird replaces the symbolic CG feather; Blanchett’s Daisy mirrors Robin Wright’s Jenny, most noticeably in her acceptance of Button only after numerous experimentations in love; and Button’s continual gaining and losing of his love interest), “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” doesn’t suffer from unoriginality. It’s exciting, dramatic, and refreshing; it may be flawed, especially from a bloated script, but it still manages to be one of the more impressive films of the year.

The tagline states: “Life isn’t measured in minutes, but in moments.” Although the film doesn’t exceed at any one element, its lengthy running time does include the entire spectrum of melodramatic adventure. It boasts a poignant love story, hair-raising action (at sea with the patriotic Captain Mike, who happens to be rather reminiscent of “Forrest Gump’s” Lt. Dan), and comedy relief aplenty (most memorably from a man who was struck by lightning seven times) – plus, it contains some pretty convincing makeup effects. When not highlighting inspirational interactions, the production’s focus is mainly on the characters and events that affect Benjamin, as opposed to his own influences on others, making him something of an outside observer to his own existence (thereby decreasing the potency of Pitt’s performance, but increasing subtler thematic messages). The significance of death, the embracing of life (with coming-of-age motifs in reverse), and the discovery of sexuality/love are all viewed in a new, backwards perspective (frequently discouraging for Button, as “some creatures aren’t meant to survive”), which imparts a grand twist to the majority of escapades that could have otherwise become tiresomely routine.

– The Massie Twins

 



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