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|The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
dir David Fincher; scr Eric Roth
with Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Julia Ormond, Taraji P Henson, Jason Flemyng, Jared Harris, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Elias Koteas, Richmond Arquette, Joel Bissonnette, Elle Fanning
release US 25.Dec.08, UK 6.Feb.09
08/US Warner 2h46
Young and younger: Pitt and Blanchett
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
This sprawling, beautifully crafted fantasy epic, based on an F Scott Fitzgerald story, is full of sequences that resonate with human emotion. And even if it's a bit mannered and over-constructed, there's plenty in here to get us thinking.
When Benjamin (Pitt) is born in 1918 New Orleans, he looks like a tiny 100-year-old man. His father (Flemyng), unable to cope, leaves him to be raised by Queenie (Henson) in a nursing home. As he grows up and looks progressively younger, he has the usual life experiences, works on a boat with a tattooed captain (Harris) and has an affair with a married woman (Swinton) in Murmansk. But his thoughts continually return to his childhood friend Daisy (Fanning, then Blanchett). And one day they'll be virtually the same age.
As with Forrest Gump, Roth takes in 20th century America through the eyes of a surreal character. Covering two wars and using Hurricane Katrina as a present-day framing device (featuring Ormond and a centenarian Blanchett), this film is clearly trying to say something about US culture, although it's not clear what that might be. Frankly, there doesn't seem to be much of a point here beyond the self-indulgent message that everyone should live life on their own terms, even if that means leaving behind those you love.
That said, this is a ravishingly well-made film, with sure-handed, elegant direction and lush production design. From top to bottom, this is such lyrical filmmaking that we are drawn into each scene and mesmerised by the themes and emotional drama unfolding in front of us. And the cast is wonderful, anchored ably through the decades by Pitt in a difficult, schematic role. More engaging and challenging are Blanchett's dancer, Swinton's swimmer and Henson's momma: these full-blooded women define Benjamin and make the film emotionally accessible.
Along the way, the fantastical storyline gives Roth and Fincher plenty to play with, looking at powerful issues in an offbeat way. When Benjamin, as a little old-man boy, shrugs, "This is just how I am," there's subtext to spare, especially as he continually connects with marginalised people--foreigners, loners, pensioners. And the reverse aging process gives the romantic plotlines both added interest and intriguing resonance. It may be a bit dense and deliberate, but it's also a warm and tender fable about the fragility of human connections.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
|dara yazdani, hove: "I'm not one for schmatlz and sentimentality but due to the astounding nature of the special effects, director David Fincher's superb attention to detail and mesmerising central performances by Pitt & Blanchett the film genuinely had me in tears (er, I mean I had something in my eye, repeatedly). You really want to know it will all turn out in the end. There can be no greater compliment to Fincher than that. It may run to nearly 3 hours in length (you may need a bathroom break much like your older relatives), it is a tiny bit maudlin (don't go and see it if you have a history of depression) and the pedantic amongst you may pick holes in the story (the nature of Button's affliction is never properly explained) but the time flies by." (15.Feb.09)
© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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