The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

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My name is Benjamin Button, and I was born under unusual circumstances. While everyone else was agin’, I was gettin’ younger… all alone.

— Benjamin Button

Nominated for thirteen Academy awards last year, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was not on my list of films to see at that time. It is currently #210 on Top 250 of All Time on IMDb. I told friends of mine that I refused to see the film, because of the obvious comparisons to the emotionally manipulative Forrest Gump. After watching the Criterion Edition of this movie, Gump was at least interesting to watch.

Eric Roth scripted both movies, the movie is told in flashback from the end of WWI when Benjamin (Brad Pitt) is born to the time before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. In 2005, a daughter, Caroline (Julia Ormond) is at the bedside on her dying mother, Daisy (Cate Blanchett), where the story of Benjamin is told through a journal that he kept throughout his life.

The movie recounts when he was born after WWI ended when his mother dies in childbirth. His father, Mr. Button (Jason Flemyng), abandons Benjamin on the doorstep of an old folk’s home. A young black couple, Queenie and Tizzy (Taraji P. Henson, Mahershalashashbaz Ali) find him and raises Benjamin as their own child.

As the movie drones on, it delves into how Benjamin and Daisy met, Benjamin traveling the world, the “soul mates” coming together and them realizing that they can’t be together in the end. It retells all of the history happening around Benjamin. He is just there to witness it. He doesn’t participate in it.

This film was clearly made for Oscars. It’s grandiose. It has the magical, fantastical elements with the central hook of Benjamin aging backward while everyone is aging forward. The makeup, the digital imaging, the costumes through the different periods of time, the swelling Alexandre Desplat score, the saturation of the screen. It’s all there. Somehow, it doesn’t work.

I understand that the point of the film is that the people that come in and out of your life shape who you are. “You never know what’s coming for you.” It was the motto of the movie like “Life is like a box chocolates” for Gump. It was a defective clone.

This movie meandered through subplots that bored me to tears. Do we need to see that guy getting struck by lightning? What’s up with the relationship between Benjamin and Elizabeth Abbot (Tilda Swinton)? Do we need that “what if” montage of Daisy in Paris?

There was always little hints about time with the countless clocks around, and especially the clock that goes backwards that was made by the blind man. The inexplicable appearances of hummingbirds where there shouldn’t be any.

Reading some of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story that this movie was based on, I got the sense that the story would be a comedy of errors rather than a biopic about a fictional person.

The characters were not that interesting to root for anyone. They were bland. The simple guy, the ice queen, the deadbeat dad, the magical Negro. There is nothing of substance here.

Judgment: An Oscar baity movie that misses the heart of the central premise.

Rating: **1/2

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About Branden

Branden: I am just your average movie nut that reviews films. Gives his take on pop culture and Hollywood happenings. Dreams to have his own thriving website and make a living doing what he is passionate about.

Posted on September 12, 2009, in 2008, Academy Award Winner, Drama, Fantasy, Inspirational, Running Feature, The Criterion Collection, Top 250 of All Time on IMDB and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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