Movie Review for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

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Review #717 of 365
Movie Review of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2009) [PG-13] 159 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $14.50
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When Seen: 31 December 2008 @ 7:30 pm
DVD Release Date: Unscheduled (please check back)
After the Credits: The Paramount Logo over a Sea of Buttons
Unsung Member of the Crew: Apprentice Editor – Zach Fine

Soundtrack: Download now from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Music from the Motion Picture) - or - order the CD below

Audiobook: Download now from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Unabridged)

Directed by: David Fincher (Zodiac)
Screenplay by: Eric Roth (The Good Shepherd) Screen Story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord

Based on the Story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Jazz Age Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Cate Blanchett (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) • Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading) • Taraji P. Henson (Talk to Me) • Mahershalalhashbaz Ali ("The 4400") • Julia Ormond ( I Know Who Killed Me) • Jason Flemyng (Mirrors) • Jared Harris ("Fringe") • Tilda Swinton (Burn After Reading) • Peter Donald Badalamenti II (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) • Robert Towers ("It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia") • Tom Everett ("Journeyman") • Spencer Daniels (Witchwise) • Chandler Canterbury ("Criminal Minds" ) • Charles Henry Wyson ("Gary Unmarried")

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Who knew that a 1921 F. Scott Fitzgerald short story could be adapted to be one of the greatest fables of a new millennium? Such is the case for the Eric Roth rendition directed by David Fincher—a guy who's got a lot of George Michael on his résumé—that is our new version of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Apparently, the essence of Fitzgerald's short story is preserved, but this has been truly updated to the times and turned into a magnificent love story which spans the ages with a truly beguiling series of circumstances that serves up so much hope in this present age of gloom.

The story begins with that of Monsieur Gateau, a French immigrant blind clockmaker who loses his only son in the Great War and, hence, designs a clock to run backwards hoping to turn back time and bring back all the young men who fell victim to the horrors of war. Curiously, in the eve of the day the Great War ended, a young woman named Caroline Button (Joeanna Sayler) died giving birth to a rather unusual child. So hideous in form was he, his father Thomas (Jason Flemyng)—one of the big changes between the short story and the film—abandoned him along with $18 on the steps of a nursing home. He is found after being stepped on by a black nurse and her boyfriend that same night. While Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) found him equally grotesque, she loved the baby Benjamin with all her heart. Tizzy (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) was skeptical, but he knew there was no changing her mind when it came to keeping the baby and raising him as her own with the story that he belonged to her sister who couldn't care for anything but herself. As Benjamin grew up, it was clear why he was so malformed as a baby, he was actually born a very, very old man. The doctors who examined him had no clue what was going on, but figured he'd die very soon.

… a magnificent love story which spans the ages with a truly beguiling series of circumstances that serves up so much hope in this present age of gloom.
Queenie, therefore, raised him with extra care. But, Benjamin, as it would turn out, was not heading toward death so soon. In fact, as he grew, it appeared that the very, very old man was actually growing younger. And, there was something about him, something that only a child-like essence in a very old person can induce, that caused him to be the object of much affection in his old age. In fact, his first and only crush, Daisy, instantly attaches to him in some way despite the appearance of him being a despicable old man and her just a bit odd. By the time Benjamin (Brad Pitt) was chronologically 17 but looking still in his 60s, he ventures out to see the world on Captain (Jared Harris) Mike's boat. Leaving his home town of New Orleans, the tug boat ends up spending quite a bit of time in Europe and the coastal cities of Russia. It is here that the backwards aging Benjamin discovers his magnetic effect on chronologically older women. The rest of the story, however, will focus on Benjamin finally getting the girl of his dreams, living the most amazingly cool life, finding out who he really is, and then realizing that this backwards aging is going to eventually lead him to babyhood and death just the other way round.

Told from the pages of Benjamin's diary and read by a young woman named Caroline (Julia Ormond) to her dying mother in the hospital bed just before Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, there's an entirely other story going on outside in that hospital room that will only be revealed through sleuthing or waiting until the very end of this incredibly elaborate tale. Credit Eric Roth and David Fincher for developing such a majestic tale that resonates across the ages and fulfills a fantasy most people, as they grow up and age, figure out would be the coolest of all things and reverse one of life's cruelest ironies. You don't figure out how much you love life and want to live until a time when your body is woefully incapable of living that life. Not so for Benjamin Button, the dude gets his 17-year old body when he's in his 60s. Imagine how cool that would be, gentlemen! Embedded in this message, though is the hope that everyone will learn to cherish the moments and their loved ones in spite of their frailties. Grab on to the passion of life and run with it.

Brad Pitt fans, well, you've never seen Brad Pitt really act before this year. His hilarious performance and one of the few redeeming things about Burn After Reading, and now this enchanting performance for the middle years of Benjamin Button is incredible. As an actor, he's hitting his stride and renaissance. Forget that "Sexiest Man Alive" thing and really pay attention to him. This is a legendary performance well worthy of brilliant critical acclaim.

… you've never seen Brad Pitt really act before …
One of the ways to tell, you will sit through all 159 minutes of this film and wish it could go on forever. Meanwhile, Cate Blanchett continues her reign as the natural successor to Meryl Streep as the mantle of "greatest living actress" may be passed on. Of course, as one of Ms Streep's long time biggest fans (though I did tear up Sophie's Choice back in my high school film reviewing days) I'm not suggesting she's ready to give up her crown anytime soon. Still, Cate Blanchett most certainly can hold her own. This is one of her deepest and most complex roles for as Benjamin is aging backwards, Cate's character is aging forward. Eventually, they will clash in the middle at about the same age, but her character must face the inevitability of her mortality whereas she feels he will not. Of course, she neglects to think about the fact that he will eventually turn back into a baby and die not knowing anything, or will he? You'll just have to plop down the coin to see this film to find out. It's remarkable and one of the very best films of the year. Every character is richly created and portrayed with awesome performances by Taraji P. Henson and the vivacious Tilda Swinton. Credit should also go to the other six actors that portrayed Benjamin Button. If the make-up artists aren't nominated for an Academy Award® somebody was asleep at the wheel. Likewise for set decorators, costumes, and sound design. I'm still going to assert that The Dark Knight is the best film of the year, and I don't care what that may say about me as a critic. I'm unafraid to support a superhero/action/thriller as the best and highest art of the year, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button would be a close second.

The Benjamins
Peter Donald Badalamenti II...Benjamin 1928-31
Robert Towers...Benjamin 1932-34
Tom Everett...Benjamin 1935-37
Brad Pitt...Benjamin 1938-Age 17
Spencer Daniels...Benjamin - Age 12
Chandler Canterbury...Benjamin - Age 8
Charles Henry Wyson...Benjamin - Age 6

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Related Products from
Other Projects Featuring The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Cast Members
Cate BlanchettBrad PittTaraji P. Henson
Mahershalalhashbaz AliJulia OrmondJason Flemyng
Jared HarrisTilda SwintonPeter Donald Badalamenti II
Robert TowersCharles Henry WysonSpencer Daniels
David Fincher
Eric Roth

Review-lite The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) [max of 150 words]
Director David Fincher and screenwriter Eric Roth bring to life the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button starring Brad Pitt in the title role. Truly updated to the times, they turned it into a magnificent love story which spans the ages with a truly beguiling series of circumstances that serves up so much hope in this present age of gloom. You won't fall asleep in this fantasy come true.

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1 comment:

John Thomas "Kooz" Kuczmarski said...

I make it a (healthy) habit to check almost everytime I watch a movie, not so much to decide if I should see the movie or not -- to make a decision -- but to get more out of the movie, to know what to look for, and to appreciate themes, cinematography, plot twists, or ideas I may have otherwise overlooked had I not made the enlightening quick cinematic pitstop at

This site rocks!!

I seriously would have in no way seen the bigger messages and gotten as much as I have so far out of certain movies like Tropic Thunder (still viewing at), or Scooter's comments on Beowulf's animation, and myriad other examples. From the "how the movie was made" trivia, to the depth of certain themes, is definitely the place to go to visit to enrich your movie-watching experience. In a way, the site has become a sort of "gps-map-navigator" for not getting lost and to focus on the most rewarding parts of a film!

That said, Scooter, you should get some kind of screening waiver where some kind of critics guild covers the cost for you to view the film? haha! Would be awesome and I think totally appropriate. hey, if I made a film, I'd want it to pop up on MED! haha.

Anways, in regards to "Button", yeah this looks great. It's on my must-see list but have been reading the notes on it. Pitt and Blanchett are incredibly talented, some of the best actors I've ever seen, plus, the chemistry of pitt and fincher back in Fight club proved to be pretty amazing, finally the story and the new CGI effects sound appealing too.