Some have compared “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” to “Forrest Gump,” and for good reason — the screenplays for both were written by Eric Roth, they both follow the extraordinary life of a Southern man and they’re both epic in scale.
But where Forrest Gump was “about something,” “Benjamin Button” doesn’t quite reach the level of “OHH, so that’s what they were getting at.” You’d think a film that nears three hours would eventually do that … but not here.
Does that mean the three hours aren’t enjoyable? Quite the contrary … I enjoyed watching the story of a man who was born old and got younger as the days passed. I enjoyed watching an old-looking Brad Pitt talk and act the way an 8-year-old boy would. I enjoyed watching the wrinkles disappear and I thoroughly enjoyed the scenery. Set in New Orleans, “Button” made my wife and I long for the Crescent City. The accents, the atmosphere, the Southern charm of that area — all dead on.
I had read an earlier review that bashed Pitt’s “Cajun” accent. Had they understood Pitt was talking more like a Creole (in the movie, he’s raised by a young black woman), the accent would have been praised. I thought Pitt was great — as were Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton as his love interests. And the characters that come and go in Button’s life — not as memorable as Gump’s Lt. Dan and Bubba — but memorable nonetheless (you’ll love the tugboat captain).
And David Fincher, who directed one of my favorites, “Fight Club,” also starring Pitt, goes in a completely different direction with this one. The cinematography is brilliant and the CGI needed to create younger versions of our characters is only partly distracting. In other words, you know it’s CGI, but it’s very well done.
It’s a beautiful film. But like I said earlier … it just doesn’t hit you. Sure, you leave the theater asking “Would I rather grow old or young,” and surprisingly, there is no definite answer. You’d think growing young would be amazing … until you see it happen. Until you see an 8-year-old boy with dementia or a 5-year-old who can’t remember his life. I suppose, to take a line from the movie, “we all end up in diapers anyway” is the moral of the story.
You’d just think a movie so brilliantly made would have had a better message than that. Gump taught us that a simple man can have a profound impact on other people and the world. Button doesn’t meet presidents or dance for Elvis — nor did he have to — but I would have liked it if he had a better impact on us.
Grade: 7.5 out of 10.