Movie Review: Benjamin Button

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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.

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6 thoughts on “Movie Review: Benjamin Button

  1. Great movie and I’d see it again.

    Unfortunately (referring to Pitt’s accent), most people don’t even know there is a difference between Cajun and Creole…and that Cajun doesn’t reside in New Orleans!!

    But I disagree that there wasn’t a “point.” In Gump, a simple man had a profound impact on extraordinary people. In Button, a special man has a profound impact on very ordinary people!!!

  2. Couldn’t agree with you more about the film’s lack of a real thematic destination. It looks good and feels right, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s frustrating that this film has been getting hoards of oscar buzz based on its high profile cast (which does deliver a terrific ensemble performance) and director, because it’s kind of…boring.

    You’re right: he doesn’t meet presidents or dance for Elvis. In fact, he doesn’t really do anything at all!

    I’ve been skimming through your blog and really dig it, check out my button review if you have a second.

    http://fivedollarsodas.wordpress.com/2008/12/26/the-curious-case-of-benjamin-button-the-film-i-wanted-to-love/

  3. I just got home from seeing this movie and LOVED it!!! So did Mom!!! I agree with Jennifer – there was a definite point to the movie and it was to make you think about a very interesting concept AND he did have an impact on the people around him and those around him had an impact on him – which is exactly what happens in most of our lives – our biggest impact is on those we are closest to and you don’t have to go out and do grand things to be very special and this movie showed that very strongly! I’ll post my review a little later tonight.

    • Well, I’m not a movie follower/goer, but do enjoy those with something to think about when I find them. I happened upon Benjamin Button on tv last night (12/30/2011) and became completely absorbed despite having missed the first part. Have got to read Fitzgerald’s short story and watch the movie again. The acting and cinematography captured me. Agree with kiminsanford 2008 comments.

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