Monday, January 05, 2009

Review: Benjamin Button

I decided to devote a large-ish portion of my Sunday afternoon to seeing "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," the new fantasy/parable/romance starring Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt (pictured above). The film claims to be based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Actually, it bears little resemblance to the original story, starting with the length - the story is 5 pages long, the film is nearly 3 hours long! The plot of the film version is this: in 1918 New Orleans, a woman dies giving birth to a "deformed" baby. Her distraught husband leaves the baby on the steps of an old age home, where it is taken in by Queenie, the caretaker. But it seems Benjamin isn't deformed - he is born an old man, and ages in reverse. The film follows his life as he becomes younger, and the love of his life ages in the normal way. They finally "meet in the middle," have a few happy years, and then the age difference takes effect again.

Pitt spends nearly the first two hours in old age makeup. (What struck me is how much the old Benjamin looks like the current Robert Redford! Scary.) So, that means the film is 2/3 over before we see the "hot" Brad Pitt, but when he shows up - WOW! The camera loves this guy - he was sizzling. And his final appearance as a very young teenager perfectly captures Pitt's early days on film - he steps back in time. Pitt is very effective in the role - even if it is makeup-enhanced most of the way. Blanchett is terrific as Daisy - she ages so well from the ingenue to old woman. She is strinkingly beautiful as the young dancer - and she and Pitt make a gorgeous couple.

I liked the film - it never seems long. The story is sweet, and moves along pretty quickly. It never becomes sappy or maudlin - even though you basically know how it will end. Pitt and director Fincher go a little heavy on the New Orleans/Katrina stuff, but... If you've got the time to invest in a nearly three hour, light film, this would be a good choice.

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