“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008)

I planned to skip The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It looked sappy and sounded far too much like Forrest Gump. Yet when it got a sled-load of Oscar nominations, I thought I’d better pay attention, so I managed to see the last showing of it at the Heights Theater before it moved on. I’m glad I did.

Not that it wasn’t a mixed bag. I loathed the framing story, where a woman on her deathbed is communicating the past to her daughter. Cate Blanchett is covered in so many layers of makeup she might as well be an animatronic doll; the dialogue might have been more intelligible. And the choice of a recurring bird symbol and the setting during Hurricane Katrina felt forced and unpleasant.

Yet I thought it was a good film. It felt old-fashioned in its sweeping, decades-long central story, with its many characters, most of whom were sufficiently well characterized to distinguish them. Taraji P. Henderson, as the woman who finds a strange baby, and Tilda Swinton, as a woman who befriends Benjamin when he leaves home, are both excellent and luminous. Blanchett, though, has a glow and presence only surpassed in her turn as Galadriel in the LoTR trilogy. Her beauty and presence resonate as Daisy, a childhood friend of Benjamin’s.

It’s Pitt, though, whose star blazes the brightest, especially because he’s such a well-known movie star. His backward aging has more meaning, since his image has been so familiar to the public since 1991 and Thelma and Louise. Once he gets to about his real age, in the middle of the film, I was well and truly hooked. And when he got even younger, he so resembled himself from movies I recall like A River Runs Through It and Thelma and Louise that it spooked me, even as it had to spook the other characters in the film. I cried at the end of the central story; even the saccharine ending of the framing story didn’t undo my feeling that seeing Benjamin Button was time well spent.

4 Responses to ““The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008)”

  1. Amy Says:

    How would you compare it to Slumdog?

  2. girldetective Says:

    Slumdog had elements that I didn’t feel should work, but they did anyway. CCBB had elements that didn’t work for me, but the central story was so charming and well done that I forgave it the bad bits. I didn’t feel I had anything to forgive in Slumdog, though, so perhaps it’s a better film since it worked as a whole for me, where CCBB didn’t. But worth seeing for the visuals, and for the performances, not just of the leads.

  3. Amy Says:

    I’m not much of a Brad Pitt fan (gasp! Can I really be a straight American female??), so as a whole I don’t have much interest. But there there’s those darned 13 nominations…

  4. girldetective Says:

    I’d say it’s worth seeing. Pitt does good work, even if you’re not a huge fan. I almost didn’t want to see it either, but am glad I did.

    The more I think on it, though, I feel Dark Knight and WallE were better than most or all of the Bes pic nominees.