Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I'll go ahead and say it; David Fincher is one of the best filmmakers working today. The modern epitome of the auteur theory, Fincher is one-of-a-kind. His films are dark, provocative and somewhat quirky (Fight Club was pretty cute), and unlike anything else you're likely to see from recent American cinema.

That's why it pains me so much to say that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a huge misstep in director's otherwise blemish free filmography. And it stings even more when you realize that TCCBB was probably supposed to be his masterpiece.

This odd tale of a man who ages backwards from an old man into a baby tries hard to be a robust, heart-breaking love story. Overwhelmingly so. It ends up feeling overblown, overlong and at times just plain dull.

This is due in part to Brad Pitt's wooden performance. He mutters his lines off robotically, like a half-awake Forrest Gump (a fine film by any account, but one TCCBB shares too many plot-points with, both having been written by Eric Roth.)

To be honest, I think this film would be more enjoyable were it not for the gapingly obvious plotholes concerning the way Benjamin ages. He starts his life off in a baby-sized body with wrinkled skin and a baby's brain, but ends it in a baby-sized body with baby's skin and brain disorders that only affect the elderly. He goes from tiny to big to tiny again. For the plot to make any sense he would have to be born at adult size. This and his muscles are the only things that truly age backwards.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button received 13 Academy Award nominations, including nods for Best Picture, Director and Actor. While it doesn't deserve these, it certainly deserves its technical nominations. The film is a visual wonder, from the superb special effects right down to the costume design. Not to mention Benjamin's aging effects, which are unlike anything we've seen in movies thus far.

The visuals are really the only element of the film which are worth paying the $9 ticket price to see it in theaters. Otherwise, skip it if you want to view David Fincher as a filmmaker that can do no wrong.


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