Saturday, January 17, 2009

Film Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (27-12-08)

I'd assume if one was to think about the technology and money that helped bring this affecting story to life, it would be almost intimidating. To have just about every other element of the film, technical or otherwise, bond so wonderfully that it makes you forget about how Brad Pitt’s face is on that old man’s body, and just see Pitt as an old man, is something that deserves praise. I hope Fincher didn’t have too many sleepless nights over it though, because from the opening oddity about a backwards clock and the man who invented it, we are transported into what resembles an intriguing modern fairy tale. It seems to have an aura that few films do or attempt to create anymore. Something that even if you did not enjoy it, it stays with you, but if you did, it is nothing short of utterly absorbing.

Themes of opportunity, love, growth, life and death are consistent as we follow the unambiguous linear storyline, constantly moving forward. Engaging and quirky characters interweave the film throughout, with roundly excellent performances from all involved. Beyond Pitt’s effortless essay of Benjamin, Blanchett again proving she is the best female actor working today, Taraji Henson’s Queenie and Jason Flemyng as Thomas Button, deserve to be mentioned. The narration used to tell and introduce is delivered as well as one could have hoped with Pitt’s New Orleans’s drawl finely convincing.

I recoiled initially from the chosen narrative, of the journal being read by Daisy’s daughter to her on her deathbed. Beside the fact that this device brings unwanted comparisons to the vastly inferior, Forest Gump (note the same screenwriter here), a cut back to Daisy’s hospital room in present day, too rue or explain her regret about a certain situation, started to grow slightly tedious and almost into muddy cliché. Luckily Fincher pulls back before it becomes a nuisance or overly sentimental. It’s a close call, and I perhaps would rather have just seen the story unfold without it.

The film’s sword - the one for which it lives and dies by, is that for all it’s tear jerking storyline and emotional performances, it’s sentimentality is trod around like on a razor but declines to tip over, despite constantly threatening to do so - especially during those hospital scenes. There is no denying it is a sentimental film, but not in a groaning or manipulative way like other Hollywood films can be so guilty of. It’s a delicate boundary to dwell in, but Fincher’s steady hand coupled with its uniquely mature and darkly funny script, lifts the film above any of its peers and raises the bar for anything wanting to be in its company.

If you find yourself a bit too cynical too endure the message it provides of simply enjoying life and it’s never too late, it would not be so surprising, but you would be missing a wonderful experience. One that proves Fincher is someone who won’t be pigeon holed and without doubt, one the most interesting directors working out of Hollywood today.

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