So, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button', then… Frankly, what I found most curious about the whole thing was how they managed to eke out F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1921 short story into 165 minutes of running time. That and how I get the weird dribble stain out of my top that appeared after I fell asleep around the 100 minute mark.
First things first – you have to watch ‘… Benjamin Button’. Not because it’s a staggering piece of work (it isn’t), but because it’s unlikely that you’re going to be avoid this movie for the rest of your life, let alone the year.
The hype is already deafening - the film has received 13 Academy Award nominations; including Best Picture, Best Director for director David Fincher (‘Se7en’, ‘Fight Club’), Best Actor for leading man Brad Pitt, and Best Supporting Actress for ‘Benjamin’s’ adopted mum, Taraji P. Henson.
Come this Sunday’s Oscars, I’d be staggered if it didn’t pick up at least half of them – it’s just that kind of film. And, if you want something to talk with casual acquaintances about in the lift at work, you really do need to arm yourself with a viewing pronto.
See, ‘… Benjamin Button’ is one of those films that will be loved by people who go to the cinema once a year (see: ‘Forrest Gump’, ‘Titanic’, anything with Tom Hanks in it); one of those films whose audiences will comprise children, teenagers, adults and the elderly; one of those films that will eventually shown on Christmas Day TV forever more.
This appeals to me – I like populist culture, I like it when people come together en mass and enjoy something – well, that’s how I justify the Coldplay CDs in my rack at home anyway. It’s just a shame a film so saccharine and poorly made will be this year’s flick to do it.
The first thing that’s wrong with ‘… Benjamin Button’ is that there’s not a story there, the film instead taking the stance of a profile piece concerning a man who starts his life elderly, and ends it young – taking in the logistical problems that come with living your life in reverse in-between. Sure, there’s a smaltzy non-more-Hollywood point labored by Pitt’s voice over at the end - that life is to be lived, not a second should be wasted, etc… - and there’s a love story between Benjamin/Pitt and his friend Daisy/Cate Blanchett that runs throughout.
But these are mere incidentals – what you’re really watching is the story of a dull man, no matter how unique his reverse aging condition is, played by an incredibly characteristic man doing his best to act dull.
The second thing that’s wrong with ‘…Benjamin Button’ is it’s nowhere near as important as the film itself thinks it is. The script is clunky and laden, the editing between present day scenes and flashbacks jarringly cold and pace diluting, the bit where Benjamin and Daisy are watching the Beatles on TV made me want to hurt people, and the bookended tale of the blind man making the clock that ticks backwards… well… you could choose one or a variety of these words – nonsense, pointless, bullshit. Any would do.
Sure, the film does some things well – the special effects involved in aging the cast are staggering, the guy who gets hit by lightening over and over again made me laugh, and the sets, for the biggest part, look beautiful (set in New Orleans, a place I imagine is off limits to the casual traveler for the next few years, it’s worth soaking in everything you ever thought would be wonderful about the hurricane ravaged city).
Oh, and I liked the bit when they went to sea, but that might just be because I, y’know, like the sea.
Ultimately ‘… Benjamin Buttons’ problem comes with being incredibly boring – a film based on a neat idea rather than a story. Given the scope of the subject matter that comes with such a vast period of history covered by Benjamin’s life – not strictly F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story, the film is merely ‘inspired’ by that book – that’s not really acceptable.
But still, do go see it. It’ll help you find something to bond with your mum over if nothing else...