Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

directed by David Fincher
written by Eric Roth adapted from F Scott. Fitzgerald's short story.
starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Tilda Swinton and Julie Ormond

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a curious film-going experience indeed. Never before have I seen a film that simply reveals its hand, lays its cards on the table very plainly, not caring if its viewers shrug and say "so what?" I have NEVER used the word "pointless" to describe a film. However, I'm very tempted to this time around. Knowing what this film is about is unavoidable. To sum up, Brad Pitt plays Benjamin, a man who was born as an infant that resembled a tiny old man and ages backward. Fine. But David Fincher and screenwriter Eric Roth have no idea what they're trying to say about these circumstances. The film is like one gigantic geek show, which is admittedly very spectacular and a sight to see. But at two hours and forty-five minutes, it gets old very fast and the film's weaknesses (its pacing, its problems with narrative structure, its lack of any real character depth of any kind) are put on full display. Not that it matters. The film is already in IMDB's top 250 of all time list (typical) and it is Slumdog Millionaire's (a film I'm also less than enthusiastic about) chief competition for the Best Picture Trophy this year.

It amazes me (baffles, really) that Brad Pitt has been able to make it this far, with the precursors for what is an incredibly vacant performance that asks very little of him (and I sincerely like Brad Pitt as an actor). Pitt is essentially a blank canvas for the makeup artists to reflect his age onto. Sure, everything is revolving around him, but you never get any sort of insight into Benjamin's feelings or character, etc, which is admittedly, just as much Fincher's fault as it is Pitt's. This performance very well may garner Pitt an Oscar nomination for a role that Zac Efron could have played with just as much power. Taraji P. Henson is positively luminous as Queenie, in what is also ultimately a thankless role. But she does what she can with it very well. And Blanchett handles another accent with aplomb, but the praise heaped upon this performance has been greatly exaggerated.

This movie left me feeling cold and uncaring. I didn't quite understand Roger Ebert's review in which he said "This movie is wrong. It's just wrong," until I saw it. I'm not sure I would go that far, but this is definitely not one for the ages. And I will agree that years from now, Charlie Kaufman's Synechdoche, New York will look like the more ambitious cinematic undertaking. Have you seen it yet? And, so it is. Two fine directers: David Fincher and Danny Boyle, being recognized this year by the Academy for two of their more digestible, but ultimately least interesting undertakings. And the Oscar goes to....

Grade: B-

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