Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Movie Review--The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The movie confesses that it ripped off the name Benjamin Button and the whole idea of a guy aging backward from Scott Fitzgerald, so I decided to give it a go. Not that I'm a huge Fitzgerald fan, but because I like the modernist period in American literature and thought it might be fun to watch a movie based on something from that time. I went in tabula rasa--no clue what I was getting into and nothing to compare it to. I waited to read "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" by F. Scott Fitzgerald after I went to see the movie. However, after having read it, I'll say this: the movie is nothing like the Fitzgerald story. The filmmakers took a zillion liberties, but the story is kind of fun, anyway.

Benjamin Button. Whew, what can I say. I saw a lot of movie/novel plots wrapped up in this one: Scrooge: woman dying in childbirth, Forrest Gump: unrealistic number of life-changing experiences, Frankenstein: outcast person dealing with the cruelty of judgmental people, Fried Green Tomatoes: old women remembering the past... you get my drift.

Anyway, a little background: Brad Pitt stars as the title character, and Cate Blanchett co-stars as Daisy Fuller. The setting is mostly New Orleans, though there are some brief scenes in New York City, Paris, and parts of Russia, I believe. The time frame is all over the charts. It takes place from 1918-2005, jumping back and forth. The movie is a weave of romance, history, perhaps a little sci-fi (the bit about a guy that ages backwards) and a twist of comedy. It was contrived throughout, sappy in places, and highly unpredictable. Other than that, I liked it.

Okay, some things I really, really liked about this movie. I love the fact that the movie spanned several decades/periods of history. The movie opens in 2005 at the onset of Hurricane Katrina, it then backtracks to 1918, just after WWI, and chronicles the life of Benjamin Button as told through his personal diary. It was a cool concept, and as I like WWII movies, I especially enjoyed the part of Button's life that took place during that particular era. I also loved the character of Button's adopted mother, Queenie. Sunrises over Lake Pontchartrain are another motif that I especially enjoyed in this movie.

And now, for the annoyances...

The plot was pretty predictable, and the sap flowed uncontrollably in places. There were clearly marked areas where the producers expected you, the audience, to turn on the water works (I'm surprised there weren't actual instructions reading: Emotional Scene. Begin crying NOW). Additionally, sometimes the timing was a little TOO perfect. I understand that time is a crucial issue in this movie, but come on. The story is unbelievable enough as it is, we don't need any of this perfect timing crap. Plus, I wasn't crazy about all the wishy-washy love stuff that went on.

Blanchett had some difficulty trading her British accent for a "N'Orleans" one, but other than that, I thought her acting was spot-on. Pitt was quite believable too, in such an unrealistic role. Kudos to the actors.

Overall, I'd say it's a good movie to watch for pure entertainment value. Don't look to glean any "moral of the story," or really much point to it at all. I didn't pick up on any symbolism, as I think this movie was kind of just for fun. If you go into the movie with that attitude, you'll probably be satisfied; if you go in looking for more substance, you'll be sorely disappointed.

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