Sunday, January 04, 2009
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I wrote a twitter about this movie, but I wanted to expand a little more.
Sarah and I went and saw this film yesterday, and I don't think I've ever been affected like I was by this film. I'm the type of person who is rarely moved by a movie or tv show. My wife jokes that I have a stone heart. I just am not an emotional person - competitive, yes; emotional - not so much, especially with film. I've seen a lot of movies, both good and bad and the stories have been told - for the most part - many times before. Some tell it better than others, but for the most part, it's rare a story takes you by surprise.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is one of those surprises.
Sure, we all know it's based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald story about the life of a man who is born old and dies young. Interesting...not too many stories like that. My interest was piqued when I heard about the story. Then I read an interview where Brad Pitt talked about Eric Roth's treatment of the story being summed up in "youth is wasted on the young". Okay, my interest is even more piqued.
When I put together that David Fincher (director of 3 of my favorite films - Se7en, Fight Club and The Game) directed the film and Eric Roth (screenwriter of Forrest Gump) had written the screenplay, my excitement grew for the film. It was looking like it could have the makings of a great film. Plus Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett (as well as Julia Ormond) are not too shabby as actors.
But, we've all seen the films that looked like they had EVERYTHING going for them that fell flat on their face (Gigli anyone?) Well, earlier in this post and with my twitter, I've probably given away how I thought it worked out.
First off, David Fincher has created a beautiful film. Every scene is perfectly lit and perfectly shot. Each filter of light, each scene is perfectly staged and every piece of this film fits. But plenty of films are beautiful to look at but fail in other ways.
The actors are incredible. I don't know that I've ever seen Brad Pitt act this well since maybe the mid-90s. He is subtle, funny, overt when he needs to be and always seems to catch the motivation for each scene. Cate Blanchett is, well, always great...I don't know that I've ever seen a film of hers that I didn't think she was fantastic in. The film used a new brand of special effects with this film instead of makeup to make the actors look both young and old. So when you see Cate Blanchett as an old lady, it is actually her, not an old lady playing Cate Blanchett. When Brad Pitt is an old man stuck in the body of a child, it is actually Brad Pitt not a child playing Brad Pitt. And it is convincing.
Ultimately, though all those other things are great, it's the script that wins here. Eric Roth created a script that is reminiscent of Forrest Gump (the story is told from the present time, narrated by the main character and is split up into vignettes where sections of the story are told) The script is filled with great characters, each one with a convincing backstory and enough time on screen to make a splash - from the tug boat captain that hires a young (stuck in an old body) Benjamin to his first job to the father that gives up Benjamin as a baby only to return to his life later on to the first real love of Benjamin's life (a woman he meets during his time in Russia).
The story is well-told, the script is tight (even though the film is close to 3 hours) and it is entirely effective. I had tears several times through the film and when I left the theater, it took a good 20 min for me to gain complete control of my emotions. The movie is that good. I've mulled over scenes again and again.
I can tell you whole-heartedly to see this movie.
4.9 out of 5 stars