Thursday, December 25, 2008
REVIEW: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button...
If you all haven't noticed, I like to start off my posts with a random one liner on something related to the film. However, for this review, I'm going to start off with a little rant, so just hold on for a second. I hate the modern movie goer. I sit down in my seat about 25 minutes before the film starts, as I love to get their early and discover new things such as "Colin Farell was a line dancer in Ireland". It really makes my day. Today was a little different though. While I wait, a group of people begin to come in, in massive quantities be you. As the film begins to role, or at least the commercials before the trailers before the intro before the film, the popcorn comes out. Now, as a polite person, I decide that it may be best if I chew once the popcorn is in my mouth. However, not many people feel the same, and the chorus of bastard popcorn angels begins to sing. Not only that, but people begin to get angry as "there wasn't a single trailer for a film that looked good" (Revolutionary Road was one of them mind you), and the fact the film is about 3 hours long got to many of the angst ridden Hawthorne Heights fans, a.k.a. high school students, behind me. That all said, I must say, this goes right up there as best film experiences of '08.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a tale about Benjamin Button, a man who lived a pretty interesting life. Born with the ailing of a man going into his mid 80's, Benjamin was left on the steps of a house by his father, Thomas Button, owned by Queenie, a young African American woman, using the house as an "old folks home". As he grows up, he begins to age backwards. As the years go by, he gets younger and younger, in looks and health. While at a party, he runs into a girl named Daisy, who he sparks up a relationship with. However, things in life happen, and he goes off to sea. While away, Daisy begins to become a world famous dancer, until one day, their paths cross again. The tag line for this film sums up the story in a nutshell, or at least it's theme. Life isn't measured in minutes, but in moments. This is the life of Benjamin Button, as told through his diary.
We begin the story with an older story, being told to us by Daisy, from her hospital bed. There once was a clock in a train station, built by a blind man, whose son just was shipped off to war. Once his clock was finished and unveiled, it was shown to tick backwards, so that "hopefully our boys will come home safe again". With this coda in mind, we are then thrust into the life of Benjamin Button, as Daisy's daughter is reading it to her, as her last wish. From this moment, the viewer is sent through unique moment after unique moment in a very unique life, filled with love, loss, and life. And I loved all 2 hours and 47 minutes of it.
The true star of this film is no one we see on screen, or nothing the actors are repeating, it's the man behind the camera, David Fincher. This film is one that will be looked back as a complete "game changer" as Steven Soderbergh so perfectly put it. His use of motion capture and cg, along with the brilliant use of the Viper cameras first seen in last year's under seen Zodiac, make for one of the most beautiful and gorgeous films I've seen all year. It's his skill to take this unique life, filled with some of the most mundane moments, and bring out the extraordinary parts of them. Also, it's interesting to see him beginning to find his style, or just honing it. There's one shot at the very end, that's a simple shot, drawing away from the focal point, yet with his patented movement in the frame, your eyes are drawn squarely into the frame as a whole. This along with the gorgeous cinematography from Claudio Miranda make this a shoe in for Oscar consideration in not only cinematography, but at this late moment, Fincher is my pick for best director.
Now, I know that there is a large group of people that like to hate on Brad Pitt but with his recent string of films, and including this one, he's growing into one of the better actors working today. He's absolutely stellar here, and so is everyone in the rest of the cast, particularly Taraji P. Henson as Queenie. Best known for her turn in the great Hustle and Flow, she gives such life and love into this film, that she is just a joy to watch on screen. Pitt is great, completely deserving of his Golden Globe nomination, and Cate Blanchett is also great, which is now the norm for the brilliant actress. In a film like this, more so than acting, chemistry is the most important thing, and I think that they really sold me on Daisy and Ben's relationship, and with a story as moving as this one is, it really worked.
The film is not simply about this man's life. There is a coda near the middle to the end of act II I believe, that basically states that the simplest of things can change the most complex of lives, and this perfectly sums up this film. This is a premise that is done quite a bit, yet the screenwriter, Eric Roth, not only dishes out one of the best screenplays of '08, but I believe vastly improves upon the source material. It's so well done without being heavy handed, and so emotionally moving without being melodramatic, and it's just a really well done piece of work. Not to mention, the score is also very well done.
There is one problem however. The film IS 2 hours and 47 minutes long, not including trailers and commercials. If you want a fast paced action film that you can simply throw away from your mind as soon as you toss your popcorn bag/bucket, look elsewhere. This is a well paced, if long winded film, that doesn't rely on action to hold your attention. It does lag near the middle, and there is one sequence that involves Tilda Swinton that maybe goes on for to long, but overall, I really did like this film. It forced me to sort of take stock of my life, and where I'm at and going, so for a film to do that and be as well crafted as this, I say it's one of the must sees of '08. Not the best, but certainly up there.
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button - 8.5/10
Easily in my top 10, Benjamin Button is a gorgeous film, that may lag just a little bit, but is so well crafted, acted, written, and paced, that if there is one film to see with a loved one this season, make it this.
I could talk about more, but I know many of you were interested in checking this one out, so please, leave your comments below! I would love to hear what you guys have to think!
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