The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Fincher, 2008)

December 26, 2008 at 8:53 pm (Uncategorized)

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I’ve been trying to settle on a rating since I saw it last night. I loved it, but I feel it is flawed. I think my major problem is that Benjamin is such a passive character and he never really shows outward emotion despite experiencing so much death, war, loss of love, birth, pain, joy, ect. It’s already hard to relate to him based on his “unusual circumstances.” Both the way the character is written and the way he’s performed put him at an even further distance from the audience. It becomes much more of Daisy’s story by the third act, even with Benjamin’s voice-over narration. I felt like the development of Benjamin’s character was really lacking especially considering the amount of time given.

Despite that, the film worked for me on every other level. I loved the whole supporting cast, and most of the characters feel fully realized even with limited screentime. Blanchett is the real star here, but Taraji P. Henson and Tilda Swinton are fantastic as well. The film is beautifully constructed – the camerawork, lighting, costume design, sets, all fantastic. Alexandre Desplat’s score seems the surefire winner at the Oscars and of course the makeup work will win, very impressive. The shot where the sun comes up and illuminates Jason Flemyng’s aged face shows how much detail and accuracy the makeup acheived. I thought the digital aging looked great too, it never looked awkward or creepy.

I really like long films like this that give their characters and themes time to breathe. The structure really worked for me, including the framing device with Daisy and the diary, as well as the bookends about the clock that went backwards (the story about the clockmaker at the beginning is incredible). The ending was bittersweet, to me, not just depressing, but done in such a way that is poignant and has a lingering effect. The screenplay also has a lot of unexpected humor – the running gag with the lightning is hilarious. It really has all the elements to make a timeless film… if only Benjamin was a more strongly developed character, it would be pretty much perfect.

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6 Comments

  1. spengo said,

    Does Elias Koteas get much to do? He’s one of my favourite character actors.

  2. orpheline said,

    He’s hardly in it. He plays the clockmaker, and that segment is only about 5 minutes. It’s easily one of the best parts of the film though. I actually thought it would make a nice film on its own.

  3. spengo said,

    Oh darn. Well it’s nice to know that he plays a key part in one of the film’s highlights.

  4. ace said,

    good review; you weren’t worshipping the film, but you seemed to have a clear admiration for its intentions.

    can’t wait to see it, it looks like a real treat for the eyes.

  5. DJ Rkod said,

    I think I’m going to go see this in theaters if I can. Everyone seems to *hate* it except the people I respect the most, and the mixed critical reaction intrigues me (usually makes for an interesting watch).

    I also love passive characters, almost certainly because I can relate to them, often on a very deep level. I like reading things into performances that seem understated on the surface… trying to understand what the actor is holding back, rather than what they’re obviously portraying.

    /rambling comment, will address further when/if film is viewed. Good review!

  6. orpheline said,

    Who hates it?

    My family and friends all loved it. Some of the snobbier RT folk dislike it, but I haven’t seen any terribly low scores. Fuck the haters, it’s a beautiful movie and I’m sure you’d love it.

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