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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Life isn't measured in minutes, but in moments.

Directed by:

David Fincher

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 166 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12A

Country: United States

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was destined to win awards. It’s one of those sprawling epic deals, long and heartfelt stuff where you cry in all the right places and come away feeling like you’ve truly experienced something. But … I kinda didn’t – it’s a good film, don’t get me wrong, but somehow, there’s just something missing.

We’re with Benjamin (Brad Pitt) pretty much from the time he enters the world at the end of WWI. No ordinary baby, little Benjamin is abandoned on the doorstep of the ever-patient Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) when his mother dies in childbirth and his father flees, unable to handle the raising of a newborn who is, apparently, living with the body of an 80-year-old man. The baby is not expected to live, but as time moves forward, Benjamin seems to march backwards, and as the ravages of age and years begin to claim everyone he loves, Benjamin makes the best of an extraordinary life lived in reverse.

As movies go, I fully recognize the technical beauty here. This is a grand landscape to work with, with close to three hours of pure story to fill it. And there are some masterful elements and shots – there’s a scene with a taxi (you’ll know when you see it) that’s absolutely brilliant. Pitt’s good, Cate Blanchett looks stunning in all her ages, and Henson deserves her Supporting Actress nom for the perplexed and loving Queenie, a character that makes it OK to suspend disbelief and love Benjamin just because he’s hers. I wanted to love him – I wanted to be swept up in this decades long love story of Benjamin and Daisy and be heartbroken and exhilarated and walk out of the theater knowing I’d been on a cinematic journey. It wasn’t there, though. Despite all its technical grandeur – or maybe because of it – there’s a disconnect. The story Forrest Gumps its way through most of the 20th century, but it’s almost like watching through a filter. It’s all very pretty and clean and sterile – even when there’s blood, it’s precise. From beginning to end, nothing feels out of place or … well … real. In the tale of a man who’s born an old man and transcends the rules of time to age in reverse, it is, ironically, that lack of realistic heart that keeps a good movie from being a great one.

It's Got: A truly intriguing story, solid acting, and some memorable scenes,

It Needs: More heart, less perfection.

Alternatives:

Atonement, Big Fish, Forrest Gump, The Notebook

Summary

It’s a good film – not a great one – and while it deserves its many nominations, there’s an audience disconnect that will keep it from winning anything but technical trophies.

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