Man, I just love movies. Do I say that here enough? Love ‘em. Regarding the movie up there in the title, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, I can only say: Go see it. It’s got plenty of the joys that come with movies. True love and loss, closely observed detail and epic sweep, and beautiful photography and music, and a genius running joke involving lightning.
Is it the movie of the year? I’m not the judge of such things. It’s not my favorite of the year; it’s not even my favorite David Fincher movie. But it’s absolutely worth seeing.
For me, it’s one of those generally great movies that I can tell I won’t particularly desire to see again. It was a pretty complete experience on first blush, and I’m not sure I’d get much more out of it a second time. The movie was full of theme – the one that resonated most personally to me was that of missed opportunity; the sadness of missed opportunity and the immense wonder of those exceedingly rare moments where a second opportunity comes, and that time you actually take it. I’m not sure how much The Curious Case of Benjamin Button diverges from the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, but the movie does have some Fitzgerald to it.
Of course, there was plenty more than the aforementioned going on thematically here. Some will argue that it’s too much. It is just a little bit cruelly funny to take a movie about the accumulation of life experience and the melancholy of aging, and to extend the running time so far past the two-hour mark that the audience members who can most relate to those particular themes are going to have to rush off to the bathroom at pivotal moments. In other words, it’s a movie that will be appreciated by the older, while wreaking havoc on their bladders.
And I do have minor quibbles with the movie on a story level. For instance, I have some reservations about the narrative need for certain vignettes, and about the modern-day framing device, but I don’t want to get into the business of revealing plot points so I’ll leave this tack where it lies.
In general there’s much to adore here:
- Brad Pitt, as the boy and man who ages backwards, and Cate Blanchett, as the free spirit who loves him, are better than usual (which says a lot if you’re a fan, and should help to sell you even if you’re not.)
- Taraji Henson gives another emotionally diverse and profound performance.
- The minor supporting character and mentor to Benjamin, Mr. Oti, is one of my favorite characters of the year, right next to this guy.
- The makeup department (that’s beyond the FX guys) deserve singling out for their achievements. The aging work is both subtle and obvious, and remarkably convincing.
And look, it’s a David Fincher movie. I don’t think I have to sell readers of this particular website on the necessity of a David Fincher movie. The guy was at the helm on Seven, Fight Club, and Zodiac. At this point, a new Fincher should be like a new Spielberg or Scorsese: If you’re serious about film, you will watch every movie they put out. This is a world-class American filmmaker who puts a remarkable amount of technical ability towards the service of story and an individualistic worldview. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button may not be your favorite Fincher movie, as I said it’s probably not one of mine, but I absolutely recommend that you check it out all the same.