Friday, January 2, 2009

The CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

“The CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON” (Brad Pitt & Cate Blanchette)
‘CCBB’ is a quaint tale about a unique man who led a rather ordinary life despite living it in reverse. I was indeed curious to see if they could make it look believable, & yes, they do – extraordinarily so. The feature attraction is watching the special effects that make Brad Pitt (Benjamin) appear to be an 80 year old man living in a (decrepit) child’s body.
Unfortunately, the movie itself isn’t quite so interesting; in fact, as Benjamin ‘grows’ younger the film becomes less fascinating. His time working on a tug boat is the most interesting phase of the man’s life – other than that, he’s kind of boring; nice, but with a rather bland personality. The energy in Benjamin’s life comes from the women he associates with as in most of his scenes with Cate Blanchette & Tilda Swinton, the females do most of the talking – Benjamin just sits quietly & listens...
Born a wrinkled baby appearing to be on the verge of death, Benjamin’s father abandons the infant on the porch of a New Orleans boarding house for the elderly. Black housekeeper Queenie takes the baby in, claiming it to be her sister’s child. Growing up with the appearance of an aged old man, Benjamin fits right in with the boarders that are nearing the end of their lives. A recurring bit about an old man who starts every conversation with “Did I ever tell you I’ve been hit by lightning seven times?” is one of the few amusing highlights – As this is first & foremost, a love story.
Daisy (Blanchette) the granddaughter of one of the boarders senses that Benjamin isn’t like the other old fogies & befriends Benjamin. When ‘teenaged’ Benjamin (looking to be in his 60’s) leaves to take a job on a tug boat, Daisy makes him promise to send a postcard from every place he visits.
The time spent on the tug boat & the crew’s inevitable involvement in WWII make for the most interesting segments. Benjamin’s response to the Captain’s question as to why Benjamin appears to be taller & younger than when they first met is the title character’s one funny line.
The film loses its momentum when Benjamin returns from his travels & tries ‘courting’ Daisy - it morphs into that realm of dull chick flick.
Then the heart of the film takes a blow when Benjamin leaves Daisy at a crucial time in their lives – for what I thought was a very lame reason. It made Benjamin less likeable.
Then, on top of that they skim over Benjamin’s time as a teenager that had already lived a full life by simply showing him doing odd jobs in various parts of the world.
All in all, however, I liked this film – It will be nominated for Best Picture, but won’t deserve to win, though it looks like it may. It is a ‘must see’ because creating Benjamin’s backward life was masterfully accomplished.
Brad Pitt’s ‘appearance’ throughout the film is impressive; his performance is not – Though in all fairness, he isn’t asked to do all that much despite being in practically every scene except the very beginning & at the end.
Cate is fine, not up to her usual standard, but she too is overshadowed by the make-up effects.
‘CCBB’ is a visual masterpiece, you have to admire it for that – But there really isn’t much of a story here – Just a man born under unusual circumstances. The connection between Benjamin’s life & a clock that was purposely made to run backward intertwine; other than that there is no other explanation offered as to why this curious life played out the way it did. The clock & hummingbirds are used as life & death symbols – sometimes poignant, sometimes ‘hokey’. Do see it, though, it is hard not to feel that you just witnessed something ‘special’.

12 comments:

dbm said...

Nice review. Different from most I have read about the movie. A lot of them are confusing.
I somewhat disagree with your analogy that there isn't much of a story. I read the script a year ago and it read like a book. A page turner as they say. Real entertaining read, and the picture is practically verbatim to the script.
I have mentioned that I'm on the Pitt fence as to whether he should get an Oscar nomination. I'm struggling to firmly agree on the fifth spot. Is it Eastwood, Pitt or Di Caprio ? All good performances.
I'm going on a limb here but I say Button will be nominated for no less than 10 Oscar's. Picture, Director, Supporting Actress ( Taraji P. Henson ), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Makeup, Costume Design, Original Score and Visual Effects. With possibles for Actor and Actress. I guess we'll see in a few weeks.
I dont foresee another film coming close to that many nods though. It's amazing on a technical level.
Like Terry mentioned, it's hard to not think you have seen something special.

movieluva said...

Glad you decided to see the movie !
I thought it was highly entertaining. Very original concept. Well done all around.

I do sort of can't get behind it earning 10 Oscar nominations like the first poster remarked. Taraji P.Henson for best supporting actress ? Really ? I don't think there will be any actor nominations, and I feel the film is on the bubble as well. I do think many are on the David Fincher bandwagon, and they may honor him a nomination for Button because of a good body of work in his career. I loved The Game, Seven and Fight Club. Zodiac was pretty good too. So I think Fincher gets in. Other than that I really think it recieves
cinematography, makeup, and visual effects nominations.
I believe that Slumdog Millionaire leads the Oscar with the most nominations with 7.

I know I'm a female, and we tend to get emotional, but there was a point in that to where I drew a genuine tear of joy in that film.

Thank you for the Button review. Look forward to chatting about some of the others you have yet to review.

Terry Reid said...

Great comments, as usual; I'll stand behind my lack of story remark because what did BB do that was all that remarkable (Other than grow young?) The tug boat segment was the most interesting from a 'story' standpoint - other than that it's a drab little love story in which one character dies in the others arms even though that person 'left' them to fend for themselves many years earlier...
I'd say 'CCBB' most definitely will (& should) be nominated for Best Picture & I'd say it was the favorite to win. I tend to agree with movieluva on the acting accolades, though. Cate will probably get a nod because of lack of nominees & Taraji might get in for Supporting because that category is even weaker - possibly the weakest ever. But what do I know, I've got Valkyrie, Australia & Marley & Me in my Top 5!
I'd be interested in knowing what moment caused you to cry a tear of joy, movieluva - there were many tear-jerking little scenes in the film - could you let me know? & I don't consider anything written in the comments section to be 'spoiler' material - I think anyone who checks out the comments should be someone who has already seen the film.

dbm said...

Movieluva, obviously you have a right to your opinion, and Terry would be the first to say it's welcomed, you make good points for a girl ( just kidding ! ) but I'm sticking to it being the Oscar nomination leader this year at NO LESS than 10.
You see, this film will mostly garner tech. nominations. There are 11 categories in the technical categories. Just do the math really. If it gets at least gets 7 nods, all it needs to get to 10, is achieve nominations for director, adapted screenplay and picture, which looks like a pretty good bet right now.
Also Taraji P. Henson has already won a few precursor awards already and more nominations. If people are championing Viola Davis for Doubt, then Henson is a shoe in.
As for your Slumdog prediction, that makes me think. I could see it garnering 7 nominations. Dev Patel is floating around now for supporting actor nod since he recieved a SAG voted among his peers.
I just think Button will be the big boy on the block whe the nominations are announced. The Dark Knight we generate some votes. Ledger a shoe in, possible Nolan and Picture and may techs. Don't want to count out of the picture.
But as one radio personality likes to say, when it's all said and done it will be Button. Be completely shocked if its not.
Thanks for chiming in movie lover ? But what about the other movies Terry has posted ?

terry r said...

I'm just going on the record to say if 'The Dark Knight' gets a Best Picture nomination, I will be shocked & dismayed. Heath should win Best Supporting Actor & that's it. Great performance, but not a great movie... & I can hear Comic Book Guy responding, "Worst comment, ever!"

movieluva said...

I'm sorry Terry, I meant that I drew a tear from Slumdog Millionaire. But it was a tiny tear of joy. What could have been a bleak and sad movie, was not.
I didn't not cry in BB, though it did move me.

I also now, see where dbm's logic in Button's chances at being the Oscar nomination leader. It makes sense, since I think David Fincher, Eric Roth and the film will be nominated, and then I see where it will dominate the technical awards. I also looked up Henson's chances and she too will likely be nominated. Now I'm thinking it could maybe even earn more than 10. Maybe the Lord Of The Rings or Titanic of this year.

Either way, regardless, it was a very good film, you put in the special category. These don't come around every year.

blue stater said...

I really liked the movie. I just saw it today. Kind of late. But it suffers one minor thing, it's about 30 minutes too long. And from that it puts Slumdog Millionaire my favorite of 2008. I still hve about 7 movies to see.

The thing with SM, it gets to the point because a lot of it is told in flashback, so there is something always going on, because these kids don't live ordinary lives as kids like we did. There always dealing with something to hurdle. I'd like to think I could have survived, but it was pretty grim. It's not as long as Benjamin Button either.

But you just can't deny what Mr. Fincher achieved. I too am real curious, no pun intended, to see how many nominations it will get. 10 is stretching it in reality don't you think ? One site I went to predicts it getting 14 ! Now that's really stretching it. That would be the most of all time correct ?

It's kind of a hard movie to describe, but I will follow suit to Mr. Reid and agree it's something special. Do you think it has a chance of wining best picture anyone ?

terry r. said...

'CCBB' isn't my favorite movie of the year, but it's the kind of film that win 'Best Picture' - just like last year, I thought 'Michael Clayton' was the best of the nominated films, but I had no problem with 'No Country...' winning. I'm debating which movie I'm going to designate as my #1, but it won't really matter as none of my top 3 are being considered for Oscar contention. This has just been one of those years where I've liked movies that no one else did. Doesn't concern me at all, except it makes the Oscars less enjoyable. I will relish Sean Penn's impending victory & I'll just root against the bad movies & performances that will garner undeserved nominations. But CCBB
will definitely be nominated - & I would call it the favorite right now to win &, despite its inability to stay interesting throughout, I'll call it a deserving win. I have not seen the darling of '08, "Slumdog Millionaire" but probably will before the telecast. But this is obviously the year where the critics & I are on different pages, so I'll be shocked if I think its as good as all the bandwagon jumpers believe.

blue stater said...

I think that Slumdog isn't just critically well recieved, but also just regular people like it too.

I think it's an easy movie to like because it's just hard to imagine living in those conditions, more so, as little kids just going off their insticts to survive. Pretty incredible really.

It has a " rooting for " feel to it from the very beginning, as they age they are constantly being challeneged and many times you don't think they are going to make it. When the camera pans below into the slums of Mumbai, it's mind blowing to see how vast the slums go on and on. I couldn't even get my mind around to calling that place home.

Then the whole game show aspect of the movie it is pretty cool, because the audience and the host don't want the young man to win nor believe in him really knowing the answers.

There is a story of siblings gone into different life decisions, a tale of lost love and not giving up on that love, survival and overcoming the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire battle. The kid just goes through so much negative stuff throughout his short life, you just thrive on wanting to see the him catch just one break.

I was not expecting to like the movie. I went from seeing a positive review. I don't like subtitles, but was surprised that it's only about half in the movie.

I don't see how anyone with any heart and sensitivity at all wouldn't like Slumdog. It isn't that kind of film you'd hate.

Now it's on an award roll, that I really believe it'll give CCBB a run for it's money.

It's not a movie that will knock you out of your seat, but it's just a real solid little movie that is real good in storytelling and well made filmmaking.

movie luva said...

Boy, do I feel like a silly girl now. What do I know ! I like to watch the Oscar's and the red carpet, but I don't know about the categories truthfully. It is kind of fun to go back and see what you said previously. The one poster put the prediction at 10. Yet it got 13 ! More than they had expected. And I stand corrected on the P. Henson supporting nomination. She made it. I thought she was good. Queenie was a big part of the movie.

The key is, the film might have recieved the most nominations, but is there any confidence it takes a trophy home? I'll say it takes at least one home. What that is I don't know. Maybe visual effects ?

I'm happy for David Fincher, he has made some very impressive films, and he's been due, and you realise just how hard of a movie Benjamin Button must have been to make.

Lilithas said...

The thing about this movie is that it holds promise when you begin to watch it, and you think that the movie's going to analyze something you've never even considered before - "What would it be like to grow backwards?"

The question is never answered. They don't show most of the problems that growing backwards might cause. And to top it off, they could've made Benjamin a more rounded character so people could see how being impatient or frustrated or whatever could be a lot harder when you're growing younger and not the other way round. Instead, they make him absolutely perfect, with no flaws or quirks or anything.

It's not a complete waste of time, because the graphics and stuff are truly amazing, but there's no point to it, that's all.

Terry R said...

Interesting take, Lilithas. My main complaint was 'lack of story', but the visuals helped me to overlook that flaw. I like your criticism of the fact that they don't delve into how Benjamin's unique situation affects him as a person. I guess when they cast Brad to play the part, they figured "well, he's Brad Pitt - how many problems could HE have?"