Friday, December 26, 2008

The Curious Croaking of Benjamin Button

First off, what's with all the depressing Christmas movies this year? It seems like every big blockbuster this December is either about death or... death-ing someone. We've go Benjamin Button, a film loosely based upon the Fitzgerald short story, starring Brad Pitt and Kate Blanchett, and its all about getting older and croaking, or getting younger and croaking, or bothatonce. Then we've got Tom Cruise playing a German, (Suuuure) and it's all about a failed attempt at axing old Adolf. Also, just... can't... buy it... A Kraut-Cruise? Maverick? Stretching it. To top it off, in the theater next door, we've got Leo and Kate Winslet reuniting in a film that supposedly puts all the other Holiday depressing films to shame. As if they hadn't sufficiently depressed our socks off with that ending in the Titanic.

This just won't do. No sir. I want some magic, dangit, and I didn't get it this year. I want my Harry Potter movie and I want it now.

Which brings me to the movie about the geezer-baby. We saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button last night and it was pretty decent. I haven't the energy for an extended review but let's just say that it was a film-love-child of Forest Gump and The Notebook. The film was told in flashbacks read from Benjamin's diary, recited by Benjamin's daughter, cozied up next to the deathbed of her mother - old Kate Blanchett - who is in the final wheezings of cancer. Yippee! Bust out the eggnog!

And here is my review: Long. The film was too long. It lingered too much on its own sentimentality and borderline-contrived symbolism, and though it had its touching moments, it eventually departed from the world of the real and left me sleepy and thinking about how everyone I know is going to get old and die someday. And who wants to think about that right around Christmas? Fa la la la laaaa la la la (fart-noise.) Plus Pitt's accent and voice-over kept reminding me of his accent and voice-over from Interview With a Vampire- ironically set in the same place, New Orleans.

I did like the first half, (a LONG first half, I might add) but at one point Benjamin makes a decision that just doesn't seem true to his character. Unlike the moment in Forest Gump where Jenny leaves Forest after sleeping with him, and the audience fully believes it's what Jenny would do, Benjamin leaves Kate and his newborn baby girl because Benjamin feels like his daughter should grow up with a normal dad and not one that will eventually look younger than his daughter. Okay... I get it, I suppose. But right then and there the filmmaker reminded me of just how ludicrous the whole premise of the film was and my suspended disbelief was thereafter in a state of flux. Benjamin eventually ends up a pristine looking baby in the arms of a very old Kate Blanchett and then he croaks. And then she croaks. And then Katrina rolls in and New Orleans croaks. The film should have been simply re-titled: "Croaking"

Even though I had some prob's with the film, I do think it is worth seeing. Pitt gives one of his best performances and Kate is amazing as usual. I don't mean to go too Nancy-negative here; there were some very fine things about the film: It was shot beautifully (though some of the muted tones muted too much of an already muted character) and all the acting was top-notch. Every actor in the film could easily be nominated for the biggie in the spring, and even though the subject matter lingered under a depressing cloud, there were some very funny moments that lightened the mood and gave the audience a much needed smile or two between the dabbing of tears. The film does have an interesting premise and it is really too interesting NOT to see, even if it is to see if the filmmaker can really pull it off. I think in the end, you are impressed that something so out-there didn't completely bite.

The score was fine, though I grew a little weary of the touching Gump-esque piano tinklings every time we re-entered the flashback from Kate's croak-bed.

Grade: As a film: B to B+ As a Christmas Day release: D+ to C---


Becky said...

Thanks for posting this! We're going to see it tomorrow.

Tully said...

Oh my, dear friend…I think you should moonlight as a movie critic (in all your free time from dissertating). This was hilarious!!! I was honestly surprised you would like any move with Pitt in it. Of course, you should have warned me that you were going to spoil the ending (wink, wink). ;)

I think I’ll wait for this one to come on DVD. :)

Seth Ward said...

Becky, let me know what you think!

Tully, thanks. I do love film. Actually, I don't think Pitt is bad. I think he has done some fine work. He was really good in Seven and I liked him in Mr. Mrs Smith... and I liked him in A River Runs Through it. (In some parts) I also liked him in all the Oceans 11 ficks. I do so very much hate Legends of the Fall though. Forever and ever, Amen.

Tully said...

Wasn't there some commentary about "Fight Club"? Or did you just not like the movie?

Aspiring Girl said...

Watch Twillight.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget "Marley & Me".

Tully said...

Oh, Anonymous - sadly, that one is about croaking too!

Anonymous said...


Susanne said...

This movie sounds interesting but depressing. Thanks for the review!! I'm with should get paid for your movie reviews.

I don't usually like Pitt either, but I'm with you on "Seven." I loved that one. But Kevin Spacey was my favorite actor in that one. He's awesome.

coffee fiend said...

Benjamin Button was very Fincher-esque... almost as good as his other stuff if not for some nagging plot holes