Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher, 2008) [7]

I have no real reason to like this film but ultimately, I do. It's a visually exceptional piece of work, proving that David Fincher is a fantastic technical director. The pristine cinematography and seamless, lifelike special effects give the film a visual flair that is impressive. I have found that while Fincher' films are stylistically accomplished, they still manage to come off sterile and a little cold. It works in something like Zodiac, where a stringent mathematical obsession is a main theme of the film. In TCCoBB, story definitely lags behind visuals. A lot of comparisons to Benjamin's story have been made to Forrest Gump and they're true. The screenplay deals a lot with the generalities of life and death, living and loving, without anything really exceptional or interesting to say about them. Benjamin Button(Brad Pitt) was born an old man, he ages backwardly, he meets Daisy (Cate Blanchett), they drift apart and meet again over the years, time drags on, and they both die: that's about the entire story. There's nothing really meaningful to get out of Benjamin's experiences or his relationship with Daisy. He, Gumplike, weaves in and out of situations in life, and the viewer is expected to believe all of his highly implausible life experiences as uplifting and life-affirming. It's a way of extracting emotions at the benefit of any actual real character or story development.

The question is, if why can I see through the film's glaring holes, why do I still like it? A lot of this has to do with Fincher's visual mastery. There are so many finely crafted moments, from the little lightning vignettes down to the way New Orleans streets look, that make the world surrounding these characters so vibrant and believable despite what the characters make you believe. The other main attribute to the film are the performances. I may not like how they're drawn but the charisma in the performances of Pitt, Blanchett, and especially Taraji P. Henson as Benjamin's mother sucker me in. Pitt really achieves something more than I expected as he gives Benjamin a melancholy that permeates his flashy adventures. He is a much better actor than what I had given him credit for. I may not agree on the meaning of the story but the performance of those characters makes up for it. After all, I have many of the same issues with Forrest Gump, yet it still sucks me in and I enjoy watching it. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button works on me for the same inexplicable reasons.

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