Brad Pitt ages backwards while the audience simply ages. This epic lifelong tale follows in the footsteps of Forrest Gump and Big Fish but has the curiosity of neither.
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Eric Roth
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton
Released: 2008 / Genre: Drama/Fantasy / Country: USA / IMDB
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Reminding me of similar epic tales about significant yet fictional male lives, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is another lifelong retrospective in the vain of Forrest Gump and more recently Big Fish. Yet, unlike the films of Robert Zemeckis and Tim Burton respectively, David Fincher’s Benjamin Button is less a tall tale, more one of average height.
Average in that Benjamin Button is just another man in a sea of men, and average in quality as the film lacks the imagination that made Forrest Gump and Big Fish so memorable. What is supposed to make the film stand out is the fact Benjamin is born an old man and begins to age backwards. Yet, I couldn’t help thinking if you were to take that element away, what would distinguish the film from any other biographical journey.
Indeed, Benjamin’s reversed body clock is more a happenstance that most people seem ignorant of than a focus of the story. It is more interesting, therefore, seeing an aged Brad Pitt in the role of Benjamin than to see how aging backwards influences one’s life. By the end of the film, when Benjamin has entered old age and therefore looks like a child, Fincher seems sick of his CGI Pitt and opts to simply cast a kid in the role. Could he not have cast an old man as Benjamin at the beginning? Maybe they ran out of budget or Pitt became weary of the film searching for a point and made a hasty escape.
But I’m being a little harsh (even though I did feel the film was far too long). Through a period of about eighty years Benjamin has a number of experiences, meeting a collection of colourful characters. What is interesting is the film’s take on the idea of face value. Benjamin’s good-natured, adopted mother treats him as the infant that he is despite his appearance being that of a weathered old man. That is unlike his real father who abandons the child just as soon as he is born. When the teenage Benjamin befriends a young girl almost his age, their relationship is mistakenly thought of as inappropriate because of Benjamin’s seventy-year-old looks. What is fascinating is how their relationship manages to grow over the years, developing into a long love affair that eventually sees the pair’s ages meet in the middle. For once in Benjamin’s life, only for a few years, he looks his actual age.
But ultimately I didn’t feel Benjamin Button’s life was curious enough. Despite an excellent performance from the ever-dependable Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt failed to illuminate the screen (something Fincher must have noticed since he ditches the actor for the closing reels). This is more a curious case of false advertising. Perhaps the Case of Benjamin Button would have been a more apt title – at least then it wouldn’t get your hopes up.
Review by Daniel Stephens – See all reviews