Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Grade F

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Taraji P. Henson; Director David Fincher.

This movie was not popular on Mars, where I live, although I understand Earthlings were wild about it, nominating it for best picture of 2008. It tells the story of a person born at 80 years old, whatever that means. Embryology aside, the person is baby-shaped and baby-sized, but has facial wrinkles and a doctor says he also has arthritis and cataracts, and is going to die. But no, this baby (Benjamin) will grow in reverse, to become younger every year, although his brain must develop in the normal direction, since an adult brain does not fit in a baby skull.

As Benjamin “ages” he gets younger, and moves from balding hair in a wheel chair at 7, to a mature gentleman, who, although only 20 years old, acts like he is 60. His skin has become smoother, his head hairy, but he also has grown into an adult-sized person, which wouldn’t make sense if his body is aging in reverse. How did Benjamin learn bodily coordination without a childhood of playing? Wasn’t school a bit awkward when he looked like he was in his 70’s? And were there no doctors or scientists around who might have been curious? Oh well.

In his “youth” Benjamin befriends the little redhead neighbor girl. Later, he goes off to seek his fortune at sea. He returns home in his twenties as Brad Pitt and by then the little red-haired girl is a young Cate Blanchett. They marry and have a child. Nobody notices or is concerned about his younger appearance. Oddly, Pitt loves rock and roll and living like a hippie, though his mental age would be over 60 at this point. He and Blanchett understand that he will be a mere child when the daughter grows up, so he leaves. The girl grows up and reads this entire story out of a diary he left, although we never saw him write in any diary, nor show an iota of self-reflection. So most of the movie is tedious voice-over, showing disconnected vignettes as illustration. Dialog is banal. Acting is unremarkable, except for Swinton who does a good job with a terrible part.

CGI effects are laughable, but interiors are detailed and interesting. Makeup is amazing but there was no DVD extra on makeup, so nothing to learn there. There should have been some thought-provoking ideas but the basic premise was so confused that nothing can be inferred. As a 30 minute short, this could have been a charming conceit and we would forgive the contradictions. As a 2.5 hour movie, we expect some serious exploration of the idea, or the characters, or the historical period, or existential themes, or something, but there is nothing.

1 comment:

  1. Yep, I couldn't agree more. Boring movie, very predictable. I kept falling asleep in it and had to watch it in segments and kept wondering, when it that ahh moment going to happen but it never did. 2 thumbs down!