Theatrical Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

As an old woman named Daisy lies in her deathbed, she relates to her daughter, the story of the most important man in her life, a fellow named Benjamin, who began his life in the oddest of ways, displaying all of the effects of old age on an infant’s frame. As Benjamin grows older, he physically gets younger, leading to a perspective on the world wiser than can be expected…

And to say more about the story of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button would be to say too much. This story is better experienced by actually watching it unfold. And when you do watch it unfold, you’ll be experiencing yet another in a string of masterpieces from director David Fincher and easily one of the very best movies of 2008.

Fincher’s well known for the exacting control he takes on his movies (and if you’ve ever watched any of the special edition DVDs of Fight Club, Panic Room or Zodiac then you know what I mean) and Benjamin Button is no exception. This is a long movie, nearly three hours long, and yet it’s all so well paced and written so well that it never feels that way, for me, the time flew right by.

Originally based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald (which I haven’t read and I do know that liberties have been taken with the story), this screen adaptation is truly a magical experience. It’s the sort of movie that I’d like to watch as a double or triple feature with movies like Forrest Gump and The World According to Garp.

Brad Pitt plays Benjamin and Cate Blanchett plays Daisy and the performances are just excellent (Daisy is a dancer and it really looks like Blanchett learned her stuff here- and it’s not just in the steps but in her gait and how she carries herself in the non-dncing scenes). It’s easily, at least for me, the most heartfelt thing that Brad Pitt has ever done, and you feel his genuine kindness and sense of wonder about the world in most every scene.

This movie would be my actual pick to win a Best Visual Effects award for the year. Now I really like movies with big splashy effects as much as the next guy, but admire stuff more that’s just not so obvious. And here, the effect of aging is just seamless, and though it’s amazing to see, it doesn’t detract whatsoever. One scene in particular, where Benjamin is literally around the age of 18 is just about as convincing as it can be, you’ll swear that somehow or another, David Fincher has this amazing time machine and he was able to go and pluck Brad Pitt from that point in his life to play in this movie.

Right now, this is looking like a big contender at Oscar time, probably being pitted against Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon and The Dark Knight (these movies have been grabbing the nominations from the Writer’s Guild, the Producer’s Guild and the Director’s Guild) and even without having yet seen either Milk or Slumdog (and I do hope to before the Oscars come around) and whatever awards it garners, it’s totally well deserved. Don’t miss this one for a moment, it’s a terrific experience and as I said above, easily one of the best movies of 2008.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

11. January 2009 by Darren Goodhart
Categories: Text Reviews, Theatrical Review | Leave a comment

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