Film: The Curious Case of
Director: David Fincher
Producers: Ceán Chaffin,
Kathleen Kennedy, Frank
Writers: Eric Roth, Robin
Starring: Brad Pitt,
Cate Blanchett, Taraji Henson
Runtime: 166 minutes
Every so often a film comes along that seems like it can do no wrong. It has an amazing cast, a director who’s proven himself several times over and a story so peculiar one cannot help but be drawn to it. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was supposed to be this film. It should have been one of the best movies in recent years, so it comes as quite a surprise that the end result leaves a bit to be desired.
Born at the end of World War I, with his mother dying shortly thereafter, Benjamin is noticeably different from the start, so different that the patriarch of the Button family feels it would be best to abandon Benjamin on the steps of a home for the elderly. Queenie (Henson), caretaker of the home, takes him in and raises him as her own. While Benjamin, who was born an old man growing younger, may look like just another resident awaiting death, he is actually awaiting life. It is here that Benjamin meets Daisy (Blanchett), a young girl who comes to the home to visit her grandmother. Both take an interest in each other almost immediately and this meeting sets in motion Benjamin’s ultimate motivation for the rest of the story.
The performances in this film are of the highest caliber. Brad Pitt is amazing as Benjamin. Every mannerism and inflection of voice makes us believe we are watching a man in his eighties, yet he convinces us that he is still a child with a likewise curiosity. Viewers will leave the theater wondering why Pitt has not yet won an Oscar. Cate Blanchett, perfect in nearly everything she’s done, is just as on here. She plays Daisy, Benjamin’s complete opposite, reveling in her own youth and beauty, which is undoubtedly what attracted Benjamin to her in the first place. While the performances by Pitt and Blanchett are excellent, the real scene stealer is Henson. She plays Queenie with such exuberance and love that the audience will have a hard time not falling in love with her instantly. Tilda Swinton makes an almost cameo appearance as a brief love interest and performs quite capably.
While nearly every aspect of this film is done masterfully, the story itself is where the problems begin. The backwards aging of Benjamin is a gimmick to draw people into theaters. It’s easy to see Benjamin as a living palindrome, but even that comparison to the similarity between birth and old age should come easily to viewers and does not pack much of an emotional wallop. Benjamin as a character did not entirely inspire my sympathies, nor was there a point where rooting for him felt appropriate. Aside from Benjamin’s affliction, he’s just an average guy, and we’re stuck in the theater for nearly three hours watching his less than thrilling story unfold. The love story between Pitt and Blanchett was less than captivating and one might be keen on seeing them get together only to get to the end of an already too-long film faster. Ultimately, it feels like we’re sitting in the theater just to see Brad Pitt get more and more handsome.
It should come as no surprise that screen writer Eric Roth co-wrote the screenplay, seeing as he is also responsible for “Forrest Gump,” which this film is surprisingly and disappointingly comparable to. There’s a war, there’s life at sea and there are occasional visits home to his “mama.” Instead of a feather floating around we see glimpses of a hummingbird. Instead of mental retardation we get aging backwards. It’s all been done before and this time around it’s the worse for wear.
With a story that is hard to empathize with and a running time that should have been shortened by at least half an hour, “Button” is a film that’s great to look at, but one that may leave the viewer feeling slightly disappointed and a little cheated.