The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
David Fincher is the guy who directed Fight Club, The Game, Se7en, and Zodiac. So the fact the source material for his most recent endeavor comes from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a man who’s born old and grow young a little confusing. Especially when you consider the PG-13 rating.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is one long-ass movie. Let’s break it down into three parts, each one hour long. The first act is where the movie shines (and it’s probably the only part the Academy voters will remember when awarding those little statues in February). Brad Pitt plays Benjamin, the new-born old man. He’s left on the steps of a retirement home, where he’s adopted under the guise of her nephew by a worker there named Queenie (Taraji P. Henson). Despite the fact he’s growing young, he fits right in among the oldies. The special effects are remarkable in this first act, this is where the film actually merits attention from Oscar. Well done on this count. Benjamin meets a kindred spirit in Daisy (Cate Blanchett), the granddaughter of one of Ben’s roommates. They start this on again off again thing that drags out over the following two hours, but really only manages to keep your attention for less than half that time.
Daisy gets seduced by New York life, and becomes one of those self-congratulatory Manhattanites, a very successful ballet dancer, and, well, kind of a ho. In the meantime, Ben is off experiencing the world by means of a tug boat, visiting ports all over the world. This travelogue teaches Benjamin a lot of important things. He has his first love affair (with a watered down Tilda Swenson), his ship and crew are commissioned into the Navy where he’s confronted with a lot of death, and finally, he returns home a man.
It’s here, when Benjamin and Daisy are coming close to the same physical age, that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button just gets dull. It’s not Blanchett’s fault, who shines bright. It’s not Swinton, or Henson who did what they could with Eric Roth’s script. It’s not the cinematographer’s fault, who made most scenes look like beautiful paintings. The problem is simply that the story just goes way to long, much longer than even Fincher can sustain, and way longer than Pitt can. Pitt seems to loose all gusto once the make-up and special effects go away. I don’t know (and I don’t really care) if it was big studio demands that made Fincher water this story down to a tame PG-13, but it definitely seemed to restrain some of his artistic capacity. What’s most frustrating is this film is leading the Oscar-buzz race for Best Picture. And it’s just not worthy. Benjamin Button is too long, rambles too much, and leaves you let down after months of promising hype. Even so, it has some shining moments and probably merits a viewing before Oscar night.