The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Directed by David Fincher
Screenplay by Eric Roth & Robin Swicord, adapted from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Julia Ormond, Tilda Swinton, Jason Flemying
Release Year: 2008
IMDB rating: 8.4

What’s it like to be born old and die as a baby? Well, that’s what happened to Benjamin Button. Adapted from a short story written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was indeed a curious film.

Shortly after his birth on November 11th 1918 in New Orleans, Benjamin was abandoned by his father, Thomas Button. His mother died shortly after giving birth. Thomas Button left Benjamin just outside of a nursing home, where later his foster mother, Queenie would find him and raise him as her own son. Thought as having a short life, Benjamin grew up younger day by day. At the nursing home, he met Daisy, and both became friends.

Afterwards, Benjamin met Captain Mike Clark who owned a tugboat Chelsea and decided to work on the boat. A few years later, Benjamin left New Orleans and travelled around the world aboard the Chelsea with Captain Mike. He met Elizabeth Abbott in Russia, a British woman, and having an affair with her, and just after she suddenly left with her husband just after Pearl Harbor was attacked (December 8th 1941), Benjamin also decided to join Captain Mike and his crew to be enlisted by the US Navy. The captain and most of the crew died after an encounter with a German U-Boat in the Atlantic Ocean.

Benjamin returned to New Orleans in 1945. He met Thomas Button who revealed the truth surrounding his real identity and his real parents. However, by then Thomas Button was already dying, and soon after his father died, Benjamin went to New York to meet Daisy who by that time had become a successful dancer. The story then progressed with Benjamin growing younger while Daisy getting older. In the end… Well, I guess I won’t spoil the story here.

As a reminder, Eric Roth wrote Forrest Gump, and Benjamin Button is, I think, a counterpart of Forrest Gump. The mood was set to be dark, just the opposite of the cheerful tone of Forrest Gump. While a lot could have been exploited by this movie, Benjamin’s capability to experience many historical events during his curious life was severely limited to that encounter with German U-Boat. It could have been a lot better to pit him against historical figures and events yet keeping tab on the dark setting.

The romantic path taken by the movie was also similar to that of Forrest and Jenny. First encounter, farewell, reunion, farewell again, and reunion again. What separates both movies was that Benjamin aged backwards.

Visualizations were great as we could see the transition from the era of early 20th century towards the early 21st century. The plot, however, was meant to be gloomy, but I felt that the negative mood wasn’t strong enough to drag the audience’s emotion. Color play was lacking, but I guess it was meant to be in line with the mood of the movie. Special effect was very good in making the little Benjamin looked like an 80 years old person.

Acting was pretty good. Although not spending too much screen time talking, Brad Pitt’s performance could be seen from facial expression throughout the movie. Cate was also good, but I’ve seen better perfomances from her. Jared Harris and Taraji P. Henson, however, were impressive in the early part of the movie as Captain Mike and Queenie, respectively. Also, Julia Ormond who played as Caroline, did well despite her short screen time. I guess, after all, the plot limited the acting capacity of the characters.

A lot of people think that this is a great movie. But I’d rather think that this could have been a great movie. It’s just it didn’t go all the way to the dark side. Rather, it only went halfway there. If it was meant to be dark and depressing, make it so. Yet, the movie only gave me a mild negative emotion rather than going all out. That said, the acting was also could have been perfect. Mind you, we got Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett here, who could perform perhaps any roles out there. Brad could do a variety of accents like in Seven Years in Tibet and Snatch. Too bad that both talents only exploited partially here.

As an additional information, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is being nominated for 13 Oscars: best picture, best director, best actor, best supporting actress (Taraji P. Henson), best adapted screenplay, best film editing, best cinematography, best art direction, best costume design, best makeup, best original score, best sound mixing, and best visual effects.

In the end, I’d rate the movie as 7.0. Visually and emotionally brooding, but the make-up was quite convincing, I think that (the make-up) what could bring this movie an Oscar.

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