The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons Review: Pick or Pan?

Staggeringly sad, startlingly thought provoking The Curious Case of Benjamin Button left me feeling like I had just walked out of a Chekhov play: drained, somber and yet completely absorbed. Excellent performances by Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt and a great story by F. Scott Fitzgerald manage to combine to bring about a unique movie experience. The film is about life, love and loss for an amazing man, a man that lives life backwards. Unfortunately that may not be a good enough draw to get the audience the film deserves. 

Brad Pitt starts as Benjamin Button a man destined to be born very old and grow younger. Cate Blanchett is Daisy the young girl he meets near the beginning of this odd journey through the years. Most of the film revolves around the confusing emotions surrounding their bond of love. As a baby (and ugly as sin) the young Benjamin is abandoned by his father, a button manufacturer. His mother had died at childbirth and the father promised to keep him safe. Benjamin’s early years are spent in a wheel chair in an old folk’s home taken care of by his adopted mother a very kind and loving black woman named Queenie, (Taraji P. Henson). She manages to enlist the aid of everone around her to love and care for this unusual old/young man. Hensen deserves great credit for creating a believable, enjoyable and quite engaging character.

The film is interesting, if a little long in spots, and brilliantly filmed. The direction is good, the cinematography astounding and the settings beautiful. The acting in Button was good, the characters mostly believable and the director let the story drive the action. I felt that Pitt’s accent was too heavy and his makeup did not change enough over time to help the illusion of growing younger. The personality of Daisy (Button’s girl of choice) was not wholly consistent through the film and it was quite hard to link the very mature young girl to the rather flighty adult she became. Perhaps a problem with direction but more likely an issue with Blanchett.

I do not think most people are going to enjoy the film and hesitate to recommend it but, it is well done. I cannot say I truly liked the film, it was far too much of a downer, but I did find it interesting. If you’re a true movie fanatic see the film in the theatre, the big screen adds to the experience, but if a not you may find yourself in a theatre that you wish you were not. If you want to see a film about an unusual southern boy might I suggest Forrest Gump…it’s far more entertaining and uplifting.

I am going to give it 3 stars out of 5.

6 Responses

  1. Profile photo of Jenny

    Great review, Craig. Much better than EW’s review.LOL!! I saw this movie the day it opened and I loved it. I thought it was going to be one of those movies that tries too hard to be this big, epic Oscar contender. I was wrong. They put a lot of heart into it and took the time to tell an interesting and unique story. I agree that some may not like the movie but I’m a movie fanatic,(Awards season is like the NFL play-offs for me), so I enjoyed it.

    IMO, Shawshank Redemption should’ve won best picture instead of Forrest Gump. ;-)

    Have you seen Milk with Sean Penn? That’s an excellent movie.

    “We’re going to ‘Carrie’ her.”

  2. Profile photo of terrifictam

    Season I’m right there with ya. If it had been the other way around Jennifer Aniston would be getting slammed with criticism. I’m a big fan of both actors but I was happy with the outcome too. I still want to see both movies though.

    AMC can thank TAMARA BRAUN for cementing a spot on my DVR again!!

  3. Profile photo of Craig Peters
    Craig Peters

    Thanks for the praise and indeed I feel bad that the film didn’t thrill me more, but Slumdog Millionaire and Dark Knight are better all around films. The critics aren’t always on the side of the moviegoer. Forrest Gump got hammered but was still a lot of fun and entertaing. I’m thinking so far that the two best movies are Dog and Bat, but politics and critical acclaim may pull Button in for the Best Picture nod.

  4. Profile photo of jomeil

    I saw this last night. I’d give it about a 4.5 out of 5. It was very well done. I liked the subtlety in both Pitt and Blanchett’s performances, and the visuals are stunning! While I would agree that “Forrest Gump” is more fun and uplifting, I would argue that “Button” was more poignant with its themes on death, aging, and love.

    Also, Craig, do you feel like this year’s awards contenders are better or worse than last years?

  5. Profile photo of Craig Peters
    Craig Peters

    I certainly would not argue with those that enjoyed this film. There’s a lot to recommend it. As I mentioned in the review, the female lead wasn’t consistent. The child character did not grow into the adult character. This indeed could have been a flaw in the story or it could have been Blanchett’s issue. I tend to think it’s hers. I don’t think she was believable throughout and hence distracting.

    If you remember the scene with Pitt on the crutches, that too was distracting and looked too CGI. The issues of course were poignant as you mentioned, but The Notebook and so many other films dealing with life and death didn’t leave me so “unfinished.” A film like this should be cathartic, this one was not.

    I felt that Forrest Gump was exactly that, cathartic. It too dealt with death, war and horrible loss if you recall, people tend to forget that. And worse Forrest’s love was largely unrequited. I left the theatre know that bad things happened, but hopeful.

    As to your other question, I am thrilled with the buzz this year, and the Oscar picks; much better than last year. My only regret is not having more access to the indie films this year. I will not be disappointed if Dark Knight, Button or Slumdog take top honors.

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