Sunday, 3 January 2010

Unusual Circumstances.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button was polarising. I was really, really looking forward to it, and then I kept hearing fairly mediocre things about it, which dropped it down a little on my 'to see' list to the point where I never actually got around to it. For shame.

Button is a terrific film. Director David Fincher (who is responsible for many films I love, including Fight Club and Seven)(hold on - they're all Brad Pitt movies. I swear, that's not the only reason I like these films) pulls out a long (yes, another long one - 166 mins) adaptation of an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, and makes it work very, very well. Brad Pitt as the eponymous Benjamin and Cate Blanchett as his long-term love interest Daisy lead a terrific cast, notably Taraji P. Henson in her Oscar-nominated role as Benjamin's adopted mother.

The premise is that Benjamin Button is born old and ages backwards - as his years progress, his body goes in the opposite direction. The effects and make up are phenomenal. He is always obviously Brad Pitt, but he looks like a short old man, or like a teenager again, and it all looks real. His performance is very solid, though it is not at all flashy. Benjamin seems to always be slightly bemused by the world around him and the lot that he has drawn, and his innocence and naivety serve the story well. By contrast, Blanchett's Daisy is very high strung, very high maintenance, very full on, and it is a great contrast. She lives a wild life as an internationally acclaimed ballet dancer, and enjoys the trappings that entails her: travel, men, parties, whatever she wants. When her career ends, however, the ability for her and Benjamin to be together arises, and perfectly as they both draw towards the middle of their lives, to a point where they, for once, are of roughly the same age.

I'll leave the story description there, but it is beautiful and moving. Spanning the entire life of the key characters, it is epic in scope, but it never drags. Benjamin's life is eventful, yes, but never unbelievably. Never inconceivably. It is entirely feasible that everything that happens to him (outside of the medical angle) could happen to him, but it is just enough to keep the film going. Pitt and Blanchett are perfect as the two leads, and the supports, while generally minor, are strong. The film looks amazing, design and effects-wise, and Fincher blends everything together to give us a stunning piece of cinema.

I don't know which I think should have won, this film or Slumdog Millionaire, at last year's Oscar ceremony. I thoroughly enjoyed them both, in very different ways. I do think the actors lost out to more deserving performances (though why Blanchett didn't feature in the nominations is a mystery, but I think everytime she steps on screen she should be gifted awards), but I don't really understand why the film was so divisive. It was a remarkable film in every way. 5 stars.


  1. yep, I thought I'd drop a bomb on Academy when they haven't even nominated Cate for this role (or any other from her CV). Although Brad is great, her Daisy steals the show, especially those scenes in her deathbed.

    And I wasn't cheering for SLUMDOG nor BENJAMIN but for THE READER with Kate Winslet, I believe it's a much more powerful story and much more powerful film, although I loved the first two ones as well.

  2. Really? I totally didn't rate The Reader. I mean, I didn't think it was terrible, but I reckon I've seen Kate do better, and the story didn't really grab me... I was rooting for Slumdog, but I reckon I was getting swept up by momentum and that could possibly change to Button now. I"d have to see Slumdog again to see.

  3. THE READER did great with me, because it is a historically and socially very responsible movie, not just a fictional story, but a movie trying to fix some things in reality, a movie with statement and message. I always appreciate that. Deep respect. The story about being guilty and not guilty, about being responsible and not being responsible, a story about being just a drop of water in an ocean, about blaming little people for crimes of bigger beasts .... It took courage to make that movie and star in it as well.
    It was a very strong year at the Oscars!