ReviewWriter: Ezekiel Lee Zhiang YangWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"The Green Mile", "Forrest Gump"
More curious than the title is the case of why "Benjamin Button" is the forerunner of this year's Academy Awards with 13 nods, ahead of only "Slumdog Millionaire" - another peculiar picture that has cunningly warmed up to the hearts of voting professionals.
Epic only in length, "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button" tries to imitate the historical resonance and grandeur of something like "Forrest Gump" (1994) but ends up coming off a lot like the other Oscar con job - "Titanic" (1998). It has a classical backdrop with a narrative that uses the same framing device of an old person relating a great distant tale. While punctuating the journey with the old lady and Hurricane Katrina is an effective way to keep the ball rolling, "Benjamin Button" is regrettably a very ordinary way of telling a story about an extraordinary bloke.
The movie is embarrassingly rich in detail, and while David Fincher ("Zodiac" 2007, "Fight Club" 1999) is a man with sure hands, he has succeeded only in hiding the nagging need for the story to truly address the case of Mr. Button. Even if we're not bothered to question the strange biological nature of the man, it is hard to believe that a man such as him lived for 85 years in this movie without punching anybody or being punched by anybody. Therein lies the artifice - Benjamin had it easy. The movie never forces him to the limits and situations never boil over. It's an unrealistically steady ride with an assuredly happy ending from the off. Remorse, anger, anguish of losing friends - are these not emotions that are worth including somewhere between the cutesy courtships and the cocky adolescent years?
The greatest disappointment in the movie is the half-hearted sense of alienation and loss between two lovers who could not share a life together. This element was minimal when it should have been monumental.
The Best Actor Oscar nod for Brad Pitt as the titular character is an equivalent farce - the man never does much. On the other hand, Taraji Henson's character (Benjamin's adopted mum) is wildly entertaining at times and she justifies her attention for Best Supporting Actress. Romantic interests played by Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton are ace but the failure to make Benjamin a 'real' character is fatal to the film. While Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) doesn't think too highly of it either, he does have a point when we writes "...the movie's premise devalues any relationship, makes futile any friendship or romance, and spits, not into the face of destiny, but backward into the maw of time."
Deceptively well-contained, picturesque and music-assisted, the art and literary value buttons on "Benjamin" is undone perhaps by just one major decision - to have used CGI for its many scenes. As Todd McCarthy (Variety) writes "what technology gives, it can also take away", this reviewer is left dumbfounded as to why so many are ignoring the fact that there isn't much to learn from this film at all.Cinema Online, 12 February 2009