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The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (DVD)
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The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (DVD)
Date: 24/03/10, updated on 29/03/10 (140 review reads)
Advantages: Very compelling storyline, absorbing yet subtle performances, superb effects
Disadvantages: Very long, could have done with a bit more raw emotion
In 1918, following the end of the Great War, a baby is born under unusual circumstances. The baby appears with all the characteristics of a man in his 80's. The baby's Mother dies during child birth and his grief stricken Father runs off with the baby, eventually leaving him on the steps of a retirement home. Queenie, the founder of the home, takes the child in and despite his differences to other children, loves him as if he was her own - she names him Benjamin.
As Benjamin grows he begins to look and feel younger. Benjamin tries hard to live a normal life, when he returns home in his early 20's, he meets an old friend he knew since he was a child. The two feel strongly about each other, but is Benjamin capable of living a normal life and holding down a normal relationship, or is he destined to be alone for eternity?
This is a film that I was highly sceptical about watching for a very long time, not only due to the long running time, which at 165 minutes is substantial enough to put even the most eager of viewers off watching this. I had always envisioned this sort of film being very slow, couple that with the fact that films set decades ago don't really appeal to me, it wasn't look good for Benjamin Button and myself. However, after hearing all the wonderful praise it received upon release, it became impossible to ignore and I finally gave into curiosity of the case of Benjamin Button.
I've always considered Brad Pitt to be a superb actor, however, his looks occasionally don't bode well for him. He's been written off as a mere poster boy on numerous occasions, yet he always comes back fighting, sometimes literally in the likes of Fight Club, Se7en, Sleepers and Interview With A Vampire. Brad Pitt has proven time and time again that he's more than just a pretty face and when The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button came along, it must have seemed like a perfect film in which to silence his critics once and for all. Brad Pitt is unrecognisable for an least an hour of the film, but given the length of this film he does manage to fill the screen for an awfully long time as we witness him age backwards, ending up look about 10 years younger than he actually his (picture him in his Fight Club days). Pitt won numerous awards for his portrayal of Button - all deserved? Regrettable I have to say no. Pitt plays the role admirably subtly, evoking very little emotion throughout the entire film. Unfortunately Button's character seems cold for a large portion of the movie which makes it difficult for audiences to connect with him and being the main character is a big downfall. It would have been nice to see some raw emotion from Pitt later on in the film in scenes with Daisy. Button is portrayed as a very gentle man, unfortunately we don't really get to see much of a compassionate side to his character. There are small snippets of compassion from Button towards Queenie and Daisy but unfortunately it's just not enough to rescue his character.
On the length side, my reservations were completely unfounded. The time simply flew by and it seemed like it was an hour less than it actually was. The film didn't slow down for a minute as everything that happens in the film happens for a reason and I can't think of one scene that wasn't vital to the story. It may take about 15 minutes to really get into the story but once it captures you, you're powerless to resist and you'll remain captivated for the entire running time. Narration takes place for a large chunk of the story and is very reminiscent of the style of the romantic drama The Notebook in the way it interchanges from present day to Benjamin's past. There are two stories to tell with two narrators. One is of course Benjamin, the other being Daisy who is reading from a diary that Benjamin wrote of his life, she also adds in her own feeling to events which give you another aspect in which to become involved. The film, although largely centred around Benjamin doesn't forget its secondary characters; namely Daisy but also Queenie who plays a small yet memorable part. Queenie has a story of her own to be told through Benjamin's diary which is very absorbing and intriguing, the only problem is that Queenie isn't given enough screen time because she lit up the screen everytime we witness her love and acceptance of Benjamin. Taraji P. Henson who plays Queenie did a superb job and stole every scene she was in.
Blanchett is on form once again playing Daisy. It's through her that we feel all the emotions that you would if you were faced with such adversity and she was superb throughout. Her ageing felt very genuine as she gradually aged whilst Benjamin continued to get younger. I feel that Blanchett Blossoms as the film progresses and towards the end I feel that she peaks in some extremely emotional scenes. Tilda Swinton makes a brief appearance but leaves a lasting impression on the movie. She had excellent chemistry with Pitt, but I felt that their relationship somewhat undermined the significance of Benjamin's and Daisy's. Nevertheless she played her part expertly and her presence is echoed throughout the film.
Despite an overall well developed plot there were some aspects which I found were a little underdeveloped, for instance certain relationships that were never explained well enough or given a suitable ending, strong characters were left in the background in favour of Pitt and Blanchett. The scenes which took place at the hospital were very emotional, yet ended with a somewhat anti-climax and overall it seemed that some aspects of the story were purposely left open to keep the audience guessing. I've never been a fan of this tactic as I think everything should be explained in the story otherwise what's the point in seeing it?
Fortunately these are little indiscretions and make very little difference to the effect and overall enjoyment that the film encompasses. Despite its sombre and understated approach to the storyline it manages to keep you enthralled for the entirety of the 3 hours which is no mean feat. The film isn't perfect but the positives far outweigh the negatives and this is by far one of the most absorbing, yet subtle films I've seen in a long time.
The DVD is available from Amazon for £4.99.
Summary: A very good, Oscar worthy film.