Wednesday, 4 February 2009

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button - Review

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

In a nutshell...
Question. What do you get if you cross Robert Zemeckis' Forest Gump with Tim Burton's Big Fish with a touch of Francis Ford Coppola's Jack? That's right! You get The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button! Now that isn't meant to be a negative comment, but this movie might not be as original as some people may have you believe. Benjamin Button tells the life story of a remarkable human being, who is born as a baby with the physical features of an elderly man, abandoned by his birth father and as luck would have it ends up in an old people's home and raised by an African-American family. Over the first few years it doesn't seem like Ben is getting any younger and thus is treated by most strangers, unbeknown to his condition, like an old man and thus experiences certain situations at (mentally) a relatively young age, such as drinking, sex and work as well encountering for the first time his soul mate Daisy played by the ever consistent Cate Blanchett.

This takes us to the second part of the story where Ben joins up with the drunken "Irishman" Captain Jack and becomes part of his crew (no they don't go looking for shrimp...) which eventually takes Ben to Russia where he encounters his first meaningful relationship with another woman played by Tilda Swinton with a level of warmth and innocence that I wouldn't usually associate with her performances. One of the beautiful aspects of this film is how his own life's events coincide with historical events such as WW2, Apollo shuttle launch, Wall Street Crash right up to the later day current events of Hurricane Katrina etc As time goes on the lives of Daisy and Ben's lives start to cross once again we start to endure one of the more frustrating elements of the story of the "will they, won't they?!?!" cat and mouse game which eventually leads to the grand love story of the piece as you might have already seen from the trailers. One of my main problems with this movie is how hard it was for me to really enjoy it, frankly on a technical level there was nothing really wrong with it, visually absolutely epic and breathtaking and the opening sequence is one of the most wonderful scenes I have seen in a movie for quite some time. However it just felt as though it was missing...something? Think possibly the comparisons with Forest Gump (and trust me there were many) left me uneasy as I gotta be honest it was a film I never really enjoyed, and it isn't even a case of plagiarism on the screenwriter's part as Eric Roth in fact wrote both Benjamin Button and Forest Gump.

The actors carry the film extremely well despite its somewhat hollow misgivings and Brad Pitt's leading performance is as consistent as it has ever been (seriously there are very few films I could name that he was shit in) though whether he deserved an Oscar nod is up for debate in all honesty. In terms of supporting roles it was good to see Jason Flemyng (known mainly for his roles in pretty much all of Guy Ritchie's earlier films) making the jump to Hollywood and quite rightfully Taraji P. Henson deserves plenty of praise for her performance as Benjamin's foster mother Queenie , and was in my opinion one of the strongest performances of the entire film. As already mentioned the film's visuals were beautiful and the visual effects boys do a fine job of mapping Pitt's face on to his elder/younger self. If there's one thing I found quite uplifting and endearing about the film was its provocative underlying message that no matter how young or old you may be, you are never too late to try something new or to start over and that is what life should indeed always be about.

To round up TCCOBB is a hard film to review, it's not necessarily a bad film, in fact its a very good film technically but its not the life changing classic that I had intially built it up to be in my opinion, I honestly think in years to come people will be talking about this film from two different arguing sides; from a set who absolutely love it and the group who simply, don't. Regrettably I feel I would be inclined to agree with the latter than the former on this one.

Stand Out Scene...
The beautiful opening about the story of a man who invented a clock for a train station that went backwards. Extremely Burton-esque.

Stand Out Quote...
Always thought this one summed up the point of the movie quite well, taken when one of the people in the old-folks home sums up love and death to the title character, "Benjamin, we're meant to lose the people we love. How else would we know how important they are to us?"

If you liked this film go watch...
Forest Gump, Big Fish, Jack

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