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The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (DVD)
Member Name: thedevilinme
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (DVD)
Date: 29/10/09, updated on 29/10/09 (86 review reads)
Advantages: Well made
Disadvantages: Bit boring
Genre - Oscar chasing romantic biopic
Awards - 3 technical Oscars
Running time 166 minutes
Benjamin Button: "Your life is defined by its opportunities... even the ones you miss".
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the worse case scenario for the professional film critic, which isn't me, of course. Its not that it's particularly bad or anything but what it represents. It's strategically released around the awards season in February so the movie press can go along to the freebie junkets and parties and pick up their gift packs so encouraged to go away and write nice stuff about it, and with the studios full PR machine behind the film low-and-behold it gets loads of nominations! Everyone in the business knows it's a very average movie but it cynically fits all the nomination criteria - painstakingly long, dressed with at least two huge A-List stars and intelligent enough to smugly alienate the proletariat to make the Academy feel cleverer than their public by picking it.
This is nothing new of course and we have seen again and again over-rated and tiresome movies get nominated that fit this criterion, Babel and The English Patient to name but two. But something happened last year called the 'credit crunch' and the money dried up, Bollywood bailing out Hollywood with 60% of its funding, meaning it would be rather rude for The Academy not to give all the prizes to the wonderful Slumdog Millionaire, which they did, the first time in ages that the best film was actually the best film, although for me the gloss taken away from the superb Danny Boyle because of that alleged bias towards the Indians. There are three major Hollywood movies being made in India in 2009, the highest ever number in this new burgeoning relationship. It's a similar story in South Africa as Hollywood spreads it tentacles to feel out funding and cheaper labour.
The Academy have struck back this year with even longer shortlists to help boost grosses for this type of hyped movie, why there's a big gap between the fanfare of the films official nominations press conferences and Oscars night at the Kodak Theatre. Not surprisingly the five films that were nominated as best picture this year (it's now ten nominations for 2010) only just turned a buck between them in the multiplexes. Mid budget movies like Doubt, Milk and Revolutionary Road are just not making money anymore and so Hollywood are now putting the budgets and stars into films like Transformers and traditional disaster flicks so to help fund those smaller but more intelligent releases with the net profits. But let's hope the day of the dreary three hour sprawling Oscar type movie like Button is now over for a while and we can makes some cheaper fun movies in recession.
Brad Pitt...Benjamin Button
Cate Blanchett ... Daisy
Julia Ormond ... Caroline
Faune A. Chambers ... Dorothy Baker
Elias Koteas ... Monsieur Gateau
Donna DuPlantier ... Blanche Devereux
Jacob Tolano ... Martin Gateau
Jason Flemyng ... Thomas Button
Joeanna Sayler ... Caroline Button
Taraji P. Henson ... Queenie
Mahershalalhashbaz Ali ... Tizzy
Fiona Hale ... Mrs. Hollister
An old woman lies dying in a Louisiana hospital bed as lightning flickers from a far and the thunder rumbles foreboding for her fading mortality, her daughter (Julia Ormond) holding mums hand as Hurricane Katrina threatens to evacuate them, one move too many for frail Daisy (Kate Blanchet). But she is determined to tell her a story of the love of her life before that life ends as the curious tale of Benjamin Button begins, her daughter reciting the tale from her mom's diaries as we flash back to the 1930s steamy Deep South.
After a somewhat tenuous explanation of why the time is right for a baby to be born that's not like any other baby, we are soon in the bedroom of a pregnant woman in distress, surrounded by doctors, priests and relatives. She dies in agony giving birth to a troublesome baby, this no ordinary birth. The father rushes in and steels the baby away into the night, its strange appearance too much for him, dumping it on the porch of an old peoples home where its picked up by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), a black orderly woman who works there. And there little Benjamin stays, his crumpled odd Yoda like appearance fitting right in.
At first his bones are old and he is confined to a chair, the oddity now being mothered by Queenie as her own kin. Here he befriends 7-year-old Daisy (Elle Fanning), a hint of early sexual attraction but innocently side-stepped. As Daisy ages (Madison Beattie) and Benjamin (Tom Everett) carries on living in the home it's clear he is getting younger and soon strong enough to be up and around. He's been in the home too long now and so when a job offer comes up at the port he leaves and goes to sea, working for trawler man Captain Mike (Jared Harris).
Time passes and eventually he and the crew have to take the tug to war in the Merchant Navy to defend shipping in the Gulf of Mexico. On his travels after his seafaring, which includes a cold romantic affair with British society wife Caroline Hines (Tilda Swinton), Benjamin returns to the old folks home to see Queenie, Daisy now a beautiful 17-year-old (Katta Hules) and Benjamin (now a latexed Brad Pitt) much younger but still too old for his soul mate. The story presses on and on and eventually they meet at the same age, Daisy (Cate Blanchett) now a successful ballerina, Benjamin (Brad Pitt a she is now) young and gorgeous as the love story proper begins and the Katrina closes in on the hospital.
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"Benjamin, we're meant to lose the people we love. How else would we know how important they are to us?"
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Like The English Patient, this was just one long aimless romantic yawn; one presumes the book it's taken from a far more sophisticated tale. But it's not a new script though and so time to get it right, Jack Nicholson originally lined up to play Button back in 1979, the script then purchased by Spielberg for a later date. It would have been a very different movie if he had directed it!
What may have happened here is casting and the producer have bottled out and pitched the perfect teeth of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett to director David Fincher because they couldn't sell the movie any other way in recession. I have never been convinced Pitt can act and the guy just a catalogue model at best, Blanchett seriously wasted in this. When the two stars are finally recognisable come mid movie (which is 80 minutes in!) you say to yourself: oh look, there's Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchet, what are they doing here? They are in the film purely as a presence to get the punters through the door. It may have deserved its three art and make up Oscars but the nominations for Pitt and Fincher are way off and purely about putting an erroneous prestige on the movie to simply make it more cash than about any merit recognition.
It's a shame really as the idea of a human being conceived as an old man and then living his life backwards, meeting his soul mate when he is 85 and she 11 is interesting, more than a suggestion of paedophilia in the writer's prose. There are some excellent lines here too but you only really see that side of the movie when you do your IMDB research for your review from the quotes section. That screenplay and delivery just doesn't come through in the film and this just turns out to be blatantly lazy in places. The reason why Benjamin was born old is never really explored and certainly not intelligently used. There are other hints to the reverse themes, hurricanes spinning backwards and the hummingbird references, the only bird that can fly both ways, but again hard to spot. What relevance is all this backwardness guys? It reminds me of Tom Hanks in Cast Away and how the script writers wasted all those parcels on the desert island that could contain just about anything to make that film very clever and intriguing yet they settled for the flipping soccer ball as the pretendy friend? Man I would love to rewrite that movie!
And staying on the subject of Hanks it's fair to say this film is basically a cross between Forrest Gump and Titanic; the James Cameron reference being the love story inserted to keep the whole thing a float with the old woman's narration to tell the tale of Forest, sorry Benjamin in the past through flashback. The layered southern drawl narration from Pitt and Blanchett also makes you feel drowsy and you could easily nod off and wake up and still pick up the movie narrative after 30 winks. Nothing really happens. The love story in Titanic is genuinely romantic and engaging and holds the film together where as Pitt and Blanchett on screen here have as much chemistry as John Major and a packet of frozen peas! I presume it's supposed to be a love story but it doesn't feel like that.
I will leave the final word on this film to the guy I sat next to for the Titanic screening back in 1998. Half way through he shouted: 'Hurry up and sink'!! Half way through this it did indeed sink and yet again I was suckered into renting a hyped up Oscar indulgence. I certainly do feel old after this.
Daisy: "We all end up in diapers Benjamin"
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Imdb.com scores it 8.1 out of 10.0 (111,234 votes)
RuN-TiMe -166 minutes
Any 2 films for 2 nights for £5 (don't forget to ask for your voucher!)
Amazon retail it at £6.88
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Dooyoo movie crown news....
Only seven crowns awarded this week by dooyoo. Get nominating guys or dooyoo will give only six next week and let the girls have more for their cosmetic reviews!
Summary: Oscar hyped yawn