Monday, January 5, 2009

"Some things last." REVIEW

*This review is meant to be read backwards. Please go to the bottom and read up. Thanks.

That's really what The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button becomes. A string of wonderful scenes tied together by needless story devices that one might see in an amateur's screenplay when they are trying to get a grasp of different writing techniques. Ultimately the string grows weak and almost snaps, if it were not for it's source material, there's no telling where this thing would have taken us.

There really are moments of sheer brilliance though. My favorite scene of the film has to do with Benjamin Button as a baby, and it's truly transcendent in so many ways that I would like to see the film again, if only for that short scene. The film really ties itself together kind of well, in the midst of all it's messiness. There are even some nice short films thrown into this rather un-short film(almost 3 hours, not as bad a thing as some think it is). One involving a clock that ticks backwards, and wouldn't you know it, Eric Roth HAD to throw in a real life president just for kicks(Also seen in Gump). This short scene is actually quite moving, but this film didn't need it. Nor did it need any of the book end's with the older woman and her daughter reading the diary. I'll let you figure out who they are in the context of the film.


I'm not saying Eric Roth is incompetent. This film isn't bad, really, it's quite good. David Fincher(still wrenching over his Oscar snub for Zodiac) really brings it here with beautiful shot compositions and wonderful acting. It's a pity he couldn't have seen through a lot of Roth's grievances and allowed Fitzgerald's parable to shine through.

Let's not forget the women. Yes, Benjamin Button, despite his oddity, had himself a few women, as did Mr. Gump. But there was always that one woman. Jenny, I mean Daisy(Cate Blanchett) is just that woman. Of course fate forces them together in that funny way that fate works. Leaving someone unable to fulfill theirlife's dream just so the other person will get theirs.

This film works as if Eric Roth read Fitzgerald's story and said, "We've got something here but not enough for a full length." Amidst all the hustle and bustle of writing a screenplay he thought to himself, "What's the one film everyone remembers me from? Ah Ha! Forrest Gump! Well it's been 14 years, here's to hoping they don't have good memories."


As if Roth's attempt at Gumping up Fitzgerald's already wonderful story wasn't seen enough through a naive narration by an eccentric person who lived a long, event filled life. We are given a character by the name of Captain Mike(played well by Jared Harris) who's character resembles that of a Lt. Dan(Gary Sinise) in Forrest Gump. Tie this in with the lead characters infatuation with his mama, and extraneous details to add some whimsy to the story(here it's a hummingbird in the middle of the ocean, in Gump it's a feather).

Really? Enlighten us some more, please?

"My name is Benjamin Button, and I was born under unusual circumstances. While, everyone else was agin', I was gettin' younger... all alone."

Benjamin Button(Brad Pitt) is an odd child. Born old and aging younger. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the story after reading Twain's remark of how it is a pity that the best part of life was in the beginning and the worst at the end. Fitzgerald's short story isn't as elaborate as Eric Roth's script, nor should it be. Eric Roth added another layer to the story by having someone who shared Benjamin in a large part of his life dying as an old woman. Her daughter reads Benjamin's diary to her and we are thrown into the story with a Forrest Gump-ish narration from old Benjamin.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
is a "curious" film in the way it decides to take such an enriching story and a wonderful premise and do nothing but make a near waste of time. I say near because the film is beautiful and occasionally gripping.

...............

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button-2008-David Fincher

10 comments:

TinyVessels said...

I could not agree more. When in the past the film is mostly gripping and beautiful, but the present takes you out of the film. It's sad, really. You also make some great connections between Forest Gump and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button that was a little more difficult for me to see in the first viewing. I think David Fincher deserves to get an Oscar, but I'm not sure if it's for this movie. It definitely doesn't deserve best film or best screenplay, but Fincher might get the award simply because he has deserved it for so long now.

I just want to add that I thoroughly enjoyed the structure of your review. It works perfectly for this film.

The Fraze said...

Dark Knight will more than likely get a best picture nom - who knows, it could sweep the oscars.

I mean, if it came down to dark knight or wall-e, it seems to me that the academy would give it to the bat before cartoon.

Alexander Coleman said...

A good review, and I agree, although I'm not sure I would refer to the film as a waste of time. However, it was disappointing.

My own review, if anyone is interested.

Dead Pan said...

Tiny Vessels---Thanks for the compliments and agreeing with me. I'm glad someone does sometimes. =)

The Fraze---You just may be right, but that doesn't take away from my utter displeasure with that choice.

Alexander---I don't think it's a waste of time either. I said "near waste of time" but David Fincher saves the film with his flourishes.

John Smith said...

Nice approach...reviewing Benjamin Buttons backwards. I like it.

John

Dead Pan said...

Thanks John Smith. And for that comment, I like you. =)

T.S. said...

I'll be a dissenting voice. :) I actually quite enjoyed Benjamin Button, although in enjoying it I also lost track of how many flaws kept piling up. I do agree with you that Roth perhaps dipped too frequently into his bag of tricks from Forrest Gump, and at times it was so patently obvious that I wondered how Fincher let him get away with it. And yet, despite that problem, I think Fincher ultimately pulls off the film. I found myself constantly anticipating what the next scene would be, the next world I'd be transported to (and the gorgeous cinematography certainly helped that). For a movie that was damn near three hours, I didn't look at my watch once. The idea was better executed in the written word, no doubt, but Fincher managed to bring to visual life a movie that kept me guessing the next move. It's no masterpiece, for sure, but I found myself pleasantly surprised.

Dead Pan said...

I agree that what Fincher does with the films direction is wonderful. The film is beautiful and moving in many cases. I was really taken out, knowing ahead of time that the writer was the same in Forrest Gump, and seeing how he lazily threw in many of the exact same characters and happenings. The story was already wonderful, he didn't need so many artistic flourishes. I just think there happens to be to much going on. The simple story of Ben Button is really touching and perfect, but the present time was really useless. It attempted to add a level of depth, but really seemed forced. Especially with the hurricane and such, really? How much more on the nose could Roth be? The main difference I feel between this and Gump, and why I think Gump comes out superior is Gump's lack of pretention. The film doesn't take itself seriously, and I like that. It knows how absolutely absurd everything is that is happening and allows the audience in on the joke. I think, maybe, Roth's double dipping wouldn't have bothered me as much had this film had just a touch more of that. A perfect example of when he does do that, and it works, is with the man who has been struck by lightning 7 times. It was funny, but it also had depth.

Fletch said...

A novel concept, for sure, but am I the only disappointed it wasn't backwards word-for-word? Sure, it would require true patience by the reader, but it'd be really, really cool. ;)

Aaron said...

Really effective data, thanks so much for this article.
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