The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Julia Ormond
Tells the story of Benjamin Button, a man who starts aging backwards with bizarre consequences.
Curious Case of Benjamin Button is an epic fantasy tale with rich storytelling backed by fantastic performances.
  • Paramount Company:
  • PG-13 Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 25 Dec 2008 Released:
  • 05 May 2009 DVD Release:
  • $127.5M Box office:

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Trailer:

An Astonishing Rarity10/10
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a film unlike any I've ever seen and probably ever will. A true epic that left me utterly speechless. It accomplished so much through such simplicity. Everything was top notch from the elegant directing to the subtly wonderful performances down to the magical score. The film demands you to feel not only for the death we witness, but for the incredible life we discover. It prays on the obvious morality issues we all deal with but also dangles the idea in front of us that everyone goes through the same joys and grievances, just not in the same way. This is a momentous tale that deserves nothing less than the title of brilliance.

This visually and emotionally rich movie recalls the life of a very peculiar man born in the early 20th century who ages backwards. His tale unfolds through a diary read by the daughter of his love, Daisy. Throughout life he goes through the same things we do, growing up and eventually growing old. He's a thoughtful observer, discovering life from all different angles. But it is not his life that makes him unique. His love is what makes him special. He spends a lifetime trying to understand how his love for Daisy works and still only gets a few incredible years really loving her. As their lives tell us, the years of frustration and hardship are all worth it if only for a few moments of happiness.

The direction in the film is almost flawless. Hopefully, Benjamin Button will garner David Fincher the recognition he deserves. He winds this clock so well and with such grace that the movie has this undeniable flow that is enjoyable from start to finish. At nearly 3 hours, there is not a minute wasted. Every shot is jaw dropping and while some will find issue with the time, it is used wisely.

The acting is also a thing of wonder. This is by far Brad Pitt's best performance. He is so believable and realistic throughout. His nuances are spot on and despite the heavy use of make-up and CGI used to portray his character, it is Pitt who makes Benjamin that much more curious.

I left the theater astonished that some one could review this movie badly. It is an extremely graceful depiction of life, love, and the things we lose. After so much anticipation I was certainly not disappointed. This movie is probably not for everyone though. It's not your average drama that spoon feeds it's audience their emotions. It is something of awe and astonishment, an absolute gem. What makes our lives memorable are the moments we never seem to grasp long enough before letting go. Life in itself is indeed very, very curious and Benjamin Button is no less of a wonder.
"I was just thinking about how nothing lasts...and what a shame that is..."8/10
I had been awaiting to see this movie for some time. Alas, it was Christmas Day and you bet I was there to see the movie on opening day. I set my expectations really high on this film. I expected nothing short of brilliance with a film coming from director David Fincher, director of the masterful "Zodiac" and screenwriter Eric Roth, writer of the classic "Forrest Gump". The acting is brilliant in the movie. Brad Pitt and the marvelous Cate Blanchett share a fire that resonates so effortlessly out to the audience. Other performances are notable as well, such as Taraji P. Henson's as Benjamin's mother, and Tilda Swinton's as Benjamin's first lover. Another notable achievement in the film is the visual effects; none of it is overdone and it is quite convincing. The music in the film is great as well. The haunting and mythical music is composed by Alexandre Desplat. One thing that did surprise me in the film was the amount of comedy present, but I guess comedy's needed for a tale with such sorrow. I really do think that this film is a classic. And I would go and see it again. When I was walking out of the theater, some people complained that the movie was very good, but that it was too long. I disagree; I actually didn't want it to end. It's the perfect film to watch all snuggled up in a blanket during the dead of winter. All things aside, this movie is about the short time we're given with life and how we are to make the most of it. Even with a story as fictional as Benjamin Button's, the message rings true.
It's a Wonderful Life10/10
Before seeing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button I wondered how I would react to the story of a man who is born old and gets younger as he grows up. Of all of the stories I have come across, this is by far the most bizarre and intriguing. If i had to pick someone to bring this story to the screen I do no think David Fincher would have been my first choice.

How wrong I would have been. This film is by far one of the best if not the best of 2008. Fincher's direction is flawless! The film from start to finish does not let up. There are moments of joy and ecstasy followed by sorrow and understanding. Brad Pitt stars as Benjamin, a boy born an old man who must live his life in reverse. His friend from childhood, Daisy, is played by Cate Blanchett. The story is narrated from Benjamin's point of view with some particular highlights from Daisy.

The cast does nothing wrong. Pitt leads with Blanchett and a strong performance from Taraji P. Henson as Benjamin's surrogate mother Queenie, the only person in the world who seems to understand and truly love him from the start. Other cameos along the way bring a large array of characters, including Tilda Swinton, one of Benjamin's early love interests.

The film spans from the end of World War I to the the arrival of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The transitions from life stage to life stage and decade to decade are seamless. Fincher does a tremendous job at maintaining a steady flow of action and dialogue. There is not a dull moment in the film. The cinematography is superb and couples nicely with Fincher's style of accentuating certain colors to enhance a mood or moment.

There really is nothing wrong with this film. Even with a runtime of about 160 minutes, time just flies by, much like it does for Benjamin, only we are going forward. This is a tender and meaningful film you do not want to wish.
Fincher's Magical Masterpiece9/10
Possibly the most anticipated winter film of 2008, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a curious film indeed. It's got an intriguing and completely absorbing story, as well as my favorite director, David Fincher, on the top of his game. With "Button", Fincher cements his place as one of the best directors alive, as his film is nothing short of magical, mesmerizing, riveting, ground breaking, and ultimately, timeless.

When I first heard about this movie, I had to wonder...how was Fincher, the guy responsible for realistic, gripping, crime thrillers like Seven and Zodiac going to pull off the fantasy film of a lifetime? Armed with a massive budget, Fincher uses everything a director can use to craft the most charming and technically brilliant film of the year. It's a film to be cherished for ages.

"Button" has struck me like this because a recurring theme in the film is that age is only a number, and that we as people can choose what we do with our lives, no matter what our age is. What better way to tell this message than through a story where the titular character ages backwards, and must experience life in such a way? How does one fall in love when he could one day appear young enough to be his spouse's child? How does a 5 year old play with the neighborhood children when he's confined to a wheelchair stricken with old age? Fincher's epic explores our choices, lives, and the timelessness of life itself.

Brad Pitt plays the title role of Benjamin Button with a certain air of likability like he always does. While I felt he did a good job with the part, he didn't have to do much...Benjamin, fittingly, is a rather quiet character (I'd be willing to bet he narrates more than he actually talks in the film). In terms of acting, the film belongs to the ladies, Cate Blanchett and Taraji P. Henson in particular. Though Blanchett may seem overrated to some, there's no denying her unrivaled talent at playing a character as complex and deep as Daisy, and she pulls it off with ease and charisma. Taraji P. Henson will warm your heart as Benjamin's mother, as she's humorous, warm, and loving, so loving that I felt as if she was my mother.

The main complexity behind the film, especially with a director like David Fincher, is keeping the film grounded in reality, while maintaining the undeniable magic within. As a director, you don't want to lose too much of either quality, instead keeping a healthy balance of the two. I feel that Fincher accomplished this perfectly. He is mainly helped out by a magical score, and absolutely stunning cinematography (which immediately identified it as a Fincher film, because of the darkness and lighting of it).

Despite the wonder and awe of the film, mixed with the realism that Fincher always brings, the true allure of the film is not just Benjamin's aging problem, but the romance between Benjamin and Daisy, which is beautiful. Two people in love, regardless of age, time, or place. It's one of the most compelling romances of the year.

"Button" is also the most technically well made movie of 2008, as the true standouts are the Visual Effects and the Makeup, both of which are Oscar worthy. Pitt plays the character at almost every age, but it's almost impossible to tell when the CGI is being used on him. You know it's there, obviously, but you can't tell it's being used. When the transition is just smooth enough for the Visual Effects to be retired, but just rough enough to use makeup, it's absolutely perfect. If you've ever wanted to see Brad Pitt look 20 again, look no further, as the effects that make our actors young again (the same goes for Blanchett) are just as stunning as those that make them older.

Despite a long runtime, the film never drags. If I had to point out one thing I would've liked to have seen a little more of, it would've been more of Benjamin as a little kid, as I felt that was rushed (for those who don't know what I mean, I mean the last parts of the film when he's old, but his body is young). This doesn't hurt the film in any way, as it's just my wishful thinking.

I know I've used the word 'magical' a lot in this review, and don't think it's on accident. If I could pick one word to describe David Fincher's masterpiece, that would be it: magical. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is a captivating piece of art that shouldn't be missed by anyone.
Fine-looking and well acted, but ultimately flat (possible spoilers)7/10
"The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button" would seem to have everything going for it - major stars, an enormous budget, and a conceit that can't be beat. However, in the end it's that very conceit that hamstrings an otherwise wondrous piece of movie-making.

Fincher's characters tend to be psychos, paranoiacs, obsessives, some of whom struggle vainly against the darkness in their own souls, but many others who have embraced it. Benjamin Button is none of the above, and that's perhaps his problem. Button, born "under unusual circumstances" in 1918 New Orleans, spends his early life literally surrounded by death, raised, as he is, by an orderly in a home for the elderly. As a prematurely old man himself (an effect achieved by fantastic MOCAP work from Pitt), perhaps it's not surprising that as he grows into a body with which he may truly engage the world, he is more content to observe appreciably.

Now, this may be true to the spirit of the character, but unfortunately for Fincher and his screenwriter, Eric Roth, it doesn't make for very interesting cinema. At a recent screening, Roth referred to Button's character as the "anti-Gump", a classification that seemed both apt and problematic. This film will certainly earn comparisons to Robert Zemeckis' modern classic(also written by Roth), but where that film had a truly fascinating central character, who experienced as many mistakes and tragedies as victories and happiness, Fincher and Roth's protagonist is a cipher. There's a telling sequence around the middle of the film, where Button, by now a merchant seaman holed up in a dingy hotel in Murmansk, strikes up a relationship with a bored wife of a minor British official (Tilda Swinton). Unable to sleep, they meet each night for tea and good conversation (and later, sex). But instead of letting us hear what those conversations are about, he simply creates a montage, set to music, of various meetings fading into one another. By the time Swinton's character departs the film, we know next to nothing new about Benjamin other than that he has trouble sleeping and likes hot tea. The fact is that even Swinton's character, on screen for perhaps fifteen minutes, is more engaging. It's a frustrating glimpse of what might have been, had the filmmakers chosen to put the character before the gimmick, instead of the other way around.

Which brings us to Cate Blanchett. As Daisy, whom Benjamin meets as a young girl and who grows into a luminously beautiful and troubled ballet dancer, Blanchett shines as brightly as she ever has on screen. Unlike Benjamin, Daisy is not content to simply accept whatever life throws her way - she has dreams and attempts to act on them, and does her best to lead a normal, interesting life. Benjamin, passive as always, must quietly observe as she grows out of the playmate of his "youth" and into a somewhat headstrong woman who nonetheless possessed of enormous potential. His loyalty pays off, though, when circumstances bring them together again at a time when they both happen to be the same age - a fleeting moment, and one they will cherish. But again, the relationship between couple and audience is one-sided, because while we can see why Daisy would wish to return to the rock-steady loyalty of Benjamin, it's unclear what he feels about her other than a regard (she's certainly lovely enough). We are told in rather soggy voice-over narration (spread throughout the film) that Daisy is "the most beautiful person I'd ever seen", but that's all we'll get.

And so it goes, for nearly three hours. We cut frequently, and irritatingly, back to a modern-day hospital in New Orleans, where a dying Daisy asks her daughter (Julia Ormond) to read to her from Benjamin's diary as Hurricane Katrina pounds on the windows. There's something being said in these scenes about regret and the passage of time, but the appealing Ormond's character is one-note, and Blanchett seems nearly suffocated under pounds of old age makeup. It's from this diary whence springs Benjamin's narration, but, as Mr. Roth pointed out, Gump this ain't. Suffice it to say that the budget is up there on screen as we go on this strange trip through the twentieth century with Brad Pitt as our guide. A possibly unintentional (I doubt it) laugh arises mid-film when Benjamin finally reaches something around Pitt's own age. He strides into a garage in the mid-50's, decked out in leather jacket and shades, and whips a tarp off a motorcycle, on which he speeds out to the harbor to do some bare-chested sailing on a boat he builds himself (the shades remain on his head). It's a knowing wink to the wish-fulfillment of the casting - who wouldn't want their old crotchety husband to get younger and younger until they looked like Brad Pitt? - and a clever way to underscore the underlying tragedy of the situation. Sure, he looks like Brad Pitt in "Fight Club", "Se7en", "Thelma & Louise", but eventually he's going to look like Brad Pitt in "Cutting Class", and then Brad Pitt in seventh grade, and finally Brad Pitt as a toddler, and that's not so sexy.

Pitt does a fine job. It's a pity that Fincher, who has used him to such great effect twice before, didn't let him cut loose. Instead this is his most low-key performance since Meet Joe Black, in which he played Death, who was really just a nice young man curious about the world. Come to think of it, that's pretty much all that Benjamin Button is, and, if nothing else, he knows more about death than just about anybody around. Too bad that a film that means to affirm life turns out to be rather lifeless.