No matter how grand or wonderful your life is, you still end up shitting your pants. Message of the day, everyone.
Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) was born on the Day the Great War (WWI) ended. That was supposed to be lucky day to be born on but this was an unlucky case because Button was born old, week and dyeing. Benjamin is now living his life in reverse and dealing with the hard ships that have to occur with such an unfortunate circumstance as this.
Watching this movie almost 5 years after I originally saw it really has me thinking, “Did I really just love this movie because I wasn’t that cinematically-inclined yet? Or, was it just that I loved this movie because it was a good movie?”. Those thoughts go through my head, each and every single time I even bother watching/reviewing a flick that I saw so long ago, way before I even thought about this website. Some of them turn-out to be the great story that I once remembered them as being, and others, well, thanks to my knowledge of what’s right and what’s wrong with a movie, make me realize that I had plenty of years to grab a hold of my movie-knowing mind. Somehow, this movie, is somewhere right in the middle and I have yet to make-up my mind. Oh well, hopefully I will by the end of this loooooooooong review.
The reason why I put such a strain on the word, “long”, was because that is exactly what this flick is and to be honest: it doesn’t have to be. This is adapted from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and for a bunch of source-material that probably equaled up to about 10-to-15 minutes full of reading-time, you would think that a simple story wouldn’t need to be told in over 3-hours. The story of a man that ages backwards and has all of these experiences in life, meets all of these people, and has a love that lasts generation-after-generation, does seem like it needs to be told in it’s own, epic-way, but this is a bit too much of a push. However, as long as this flick may be, you still can’t forget that this is a beautiful tale of growing old, falling in love, and above all, living life to the fullest. Yeah, it’s corny, but what makes it so strange is that the message is brought-out by David Fincher. Yes, THAT David Fincher.
It is quite surreal to see a story that’s so much about the human-spirit and always turning lemons into lemonade, directed by the guy who’s brought us some of the sickest stories in the past decade or so, but that’s what makes it so unique as well. Fincher has never, ever came close to touching material like this and at times, you’ll just think that it’s an attempt for him to make some cash and make a passion-project of sorts for himself, but you’ll begin to notice, there are still a whole bunch of Fincher’s trademarks. Everybody and anybody who has ever seen this movie always says the same damn thing, “It’s like Forrest Gump, but the guy’s older”. To be fair, that is a very true and realistic observation, one that I can’t contend with, mainly because the same writer of that flick (Eric Roth), is the same writer here but what makes the tales so different, is how one is all about sunshine and light at the end of the tunnels, this movie is more about how life starts and ends the same way: you start out as nothing, and in the end, you are still nothing. Anybody that has ever known you, will be the only ones and it’s a matter of whether or not you made an impact on their life is what really counts.
It’s a really depressing idea, especially when you put it side-by-side with something like, “Life is like a box of chocolates”, but it’s also more realistic and that’s why I applaud Fincher here, not just for stepping-out of his comfort-zone, but for being able to step-out and make the best type of movie he can. The story spans over generations and as long and dragging as it may be, it is always entertaining to see the type of stuff this man goes through, what he learns from certain experiences, and how it makes him a full and total human-being. Yes, there is always that known-factor that the guy is going to die at the end, but then again, isn’t that how life actually plays-out? Thanks, David Fincher! You’re always the type of guy I can depend on to remind me that life is great and all, but in the end, we just float away into the air. Happy hugs all-around!
Where I still feel like this flick hits a problem in, is that it does begin to run-out of steam by about the third-to-last-act and I think that’s mainly because Fincher, as well as all of us, knows what has to be done, what has to be said, and what needs to come of this story. We all anticipate the time to when Benjamin eventually starts to get so young and so tiny, that he can’t remember anything that has happened in his life and is just continuing to shrink-up into this little guy, that is eventually going to die any day now. It’s so sad to watch and as much of as an emotional-impact it may have on you because you’ve gotten so used to this character and all his stories, it is slightly redundant and almost feels like Fincher really needs to shoot somebody or decapitate somebody, you know, just to spice things up. I can totally tell that Fincher was running a little wild on the inside, but at least he made it interesting and entertaining for us, in the meantime.
What probably distracts people the most from this story, is how much time and effort was put in to the make-up and special-effects for these characters and their surroundings. Since Benjamin is aging backwards, we get to see him when he’s old as hell and looks like a turd on the side of the road, to the point of where he looks like Pitt from Meet Joe Black. It’s mesmerizing to just stare-at, not just because they make Pitt look as handsome as ever and Blanchett as sexy and glorious as she’s ever been, but because it’s almost seamless and never seems like a gimmick. Movies like these that simply just depend on changing-up a person’s look or style through neat-o special-effects, usually kills a movie and features no substance, but thankfully, the movie features both the neat-0 special-effects that help make us believe more in this story, as well as having a story that is worth believing in and actually getting involved with. Still, it’s great to see Pitt and Blanchett back in their younger, golden days, even if it all by a computer. Damn you technology!
Speaking of the Blanchett and Pitt, both make Daisy and Benjamin a lovely couple that is worth staying-for, no matter how uncommon the relationship they have may actually be. Blanchett is a joy to watch as Daisy, especially when she goes through her younger days as a free-willing, energetic dancer in her prime from NYC, and we get to see that charm and beauty come out of Blanchett’s acting-prowess that can sometimes go away when she takes crap scripts. I was a bit surprised to see that she didn’t get a nomination for her work here, but hey, I guess the Academy felt like they had to give the nomination to Taraji P. Henson, the caretaker of the old person’s home who finds Benjamin and takes of him, up until he’s an old, but yet, young-looking man. Henson is so charming and fun to watch in this movie that it’s a real shame she hasn’t been able to do anything that’s really worth buzzing-about. The girl’s got spark to her, and that shows through every scene she has.
Brad Pitt, though, is the real star of the show and milks this Benjamin Button’s simpleness almost to the point of where it doesn’t seem like he can go any longer, but however, he can. Pitt is great as Benjamin Button because he’s so kind, so simple, so polite, so regular, and so bright-sided about the world he lives in, that’s it almost way too easy to mark him as another caricature that ends-up taking some happiness out of his disability, but it’s not, and that’s all because Pitt won’t allow it. The guy doesn’t show many emotions throughout the whole flick (and that was the intention), but it feels real and honest, mostly because Pitt and Fincher, together, have painted a portrait of a guy that loves life and all those who inhabit it. Pit’s great to watch and the chemistry and love he has with Blanchett in this movie, never for a second, felt unrealistic or schmaltzy. It was as every bit as epic and heartfelt as I once remembered, and that will always stick in my mind when I think of this flick.
Consensus: Adapting a short story into a near-3-hour movie, is a bit of a stretch, especially when you have a flick that spans over decades-upon-decades, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is still a beautiful, endearing, and heartfelt story that looks at life through the eyes of a person who has a very strange one, despite him being played by the ultra-handsome, and ultra-powerful Brad Pitt.
Thrillers need more techno beats.
Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a teenager raised and trained by her father (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA operative, to become a highly skilled assassin. But when she’s sent on a deadly mission across Europe, Hanna takes to an English family and starts longing for a normal life. She must first solve the puzzle of her mysterious past, however.
The fact that this is directed by Joe Wright (‘Atonement’, ‘The Soloist’), definitely makes this film stand-out a lot more considering this guy isn’t really known for adrenaline-bumping action flicks. Still, it’s great to see a director who can actually get out of his comfort zone a bit and actually do a pretty good job with it.
What I liked about Wright’s direction was how much style this dude put into this flick. There are plenty of beautiful visual moments where it almost seems like you’re watching a rave party go down and how he just keeps the camera moving on the action is very tense and creates this sort of “nowhere to hide” atmosphere. It takes a lot for a director to take a total 180 from doing Jane Austen adaptations to doing action films, but he definitely shows a lot more promise when it comes to action than a lot of these other directors that have seeming to been doing it for over 10 to 20 years by now.
What always kept staying in my mind the whole time with this flick was the awesome action scenes and how Wright’s style really added a whole bunch more to them. In ‘Atonement’, Wright used this 7 and a half minute tracking shot and it was not only beautiful but also very unneeded especially for that flick. He does the same thing here with a couple of scenes but there was one that stuck in my mind and it felt right to the whole movie considering it actually keeps on continuing to build up more and more as the shot continues. There was this one shot where we see Hanna’s dad get off of a bus and end up at a subway station where he is met by 4 dudes who obviously want to beat his ass and the camera never leaves as we see him walking and then kicking ass. It was definitely one of the most memorable scenes from this flick and was a really good use of a tracking shot, and everybody knows how much of a sucker I am for those kinds of shots.
Let me also not forget to mention that the score/soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers is absolutely phenomenal and what I think separates this from many other thrillers. There’s always a constant dub beat in the background of this flick and it keeps on getting louder and louder and louder until you feel like you just entered a club full of teens all strung-out on ecstasy. I never really have been a fan of those guys much but when it comes to scoring an action flick, they do the job just about as perfect as Hanz Zimmer has been doing for the past couple of years.
The problem with this flick is that even though on the technical front, it’s astonishing, everything else seems to be pretty lame. The script isn’t anything special, nor is it anything worth recommending. Too many times did this film focus on Hanna and her little trip with this family where she got to see the world and encounter all of life’s problems on her own. Right from the beginning I knew they were going to go down this road so when it actually did happen it was kind of disappointing since it seemed like this flick was going to be a tad different from anything else that I’ve seen. It also didn’t help that I couldn’t really get attached to Hanna’s character considering she’s just one of those fish-out-of-water characters that obviously looks like she is a little Coo-Coo for Coco Puffs so it’s not like I could feel anything for her since she didn’t really have much to worry about because every person that walked into her, she practically killed right away.
Still, though, the biggest problem this flick hits with its end is that there is a little plot twist they decide to throw in here that was too obvious and the end with how Blanchett’s shoes come into play was a little too goofy. The film was just a bummer because it obviously drops the ball when it came to being a cool moment and it’s just a shame that Wright didn’t get a script that deserved him because he is probably the biggest star of this whole flick.
However, the cast is pretty good and I can’t really put the blame on them for anything whatsoever. Saoirse Ronan is pretty bad-ass as Hanna and seems like that sort of weird and freaky-looking kid that would be a secret cold-blooded killer, but then again watch in 10 years when I’m calling her the hottest chick on the planet; Eric Bana is pretty awesome as her daddy and is allowed to show off his action stuff; and Cate Blanchett is pretty much a total bitch as the evil and sinister Marissa. Good cast all around just not enough on the script side to give them the love that they deserve.
Consensus: Hanna is super stylized with a pumping score from The Chemical Brothers, and some very cool-looking action scenes courtesy of Joe Wright, however, the script fails to live up to the direction and just ends up being a little too boring and obvious to ignore after awhile.