The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (PG-13)

Drama 168 December 25, 2008
By Scott Foundas
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is certainly curious—a modest F. Scott Fitzgerald story, about a man born in the twilight of life and gradually regressing towards dawn, that has been adapted into a two-ton, Oscar-season white elephant. Closer in spirit to screenwriter Eric Roth’s earlier Forrest Gump, Benjamin Button similarly reduces our complex 20th century to a parade of shockingly straight-faced kitsch: a hellfire-and-brimstone tent revivalist imbues Benjamin (played by Brad Pitt and a lot of high-tech CGI) with the holy spirit; a pygmy lothario serves as his introduction to the outside world; a drunken Irish tugboat captain shows him how to be a man. But where Gump actively trivialized history, Benjamin Button effectively ignores it: this movie about a white baby raised by a black adoptive mother during the inglorious years of the Jim Crow south never so much as once addresses race. The strived-for atmosphere is whimsical and picaresque, the results mostly tedious. Only at the midpoint, when Benjamin is reunited with his childhood sweetheart, ballet dancer Daisy (Cate Blanchett), does the movie give off some overdue emotive sparks. We know where this is going—he’s getting younger while she’s getting older, yadda yadda—but Pitt and Blanchett surrender themselves to it with reasonable conviction. It’s hardly enough, though, to overcome the movie’s orgy of excess, in which director David Fincher indulges his passion for luxuriant image-making with little regard for whether the story merits (or can withstand) such grandiose treatment.
David Fincher Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Julia Ormond, Jason Flemyng, Elias Koteas, Tilda Swinton F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eric Roth Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy, Ceán Chaffin Paramount

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