Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON MOVIE REVIEW
Directed by: David Fincher
Running time: 2 hrs. 47 minutes
Release date: December 25, 2008
Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy, Science Fiction/Fantasy and Adaptation
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
The movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is based on the final draft of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1922 short story of the same name. Eric Roth, the screenwriter of this movie, penned a magically adventurous and poetic romance for the large screen. This film adaptation is a story that follows a man who is born in his eighties and who ages backwards. The story begins at the end of World War I in 1918 and develops into a contemporary setting.
This is an intelligent and handsomely mounted film and it doesn't use its lengthy running time to build to a particularly complex emotional effect. It's a solid epic movie with more substantial breadth than body (much like Forrest Gump, Doctor Zhivago, and The Aviator). It is a film of enormous proportions that takes major steps in the storytelling of a "man-child's" inverted life and the normal aging of a woman romantically involved in his life.
The story is shown in various flashback scenes told by actress Julia Ormond as Caroline, the daughter of an elderly Daisy (Cate Blanchett) who is on her deathbed. This current scene is set in the modern day New Orleans, during the time Hurricane Katrina is approaching the coastal area. Caroline finds Daisy's diary among her belongings and begins to read it. She reads the strange opening story of Benjamin Button, a wrinkled arthritic baby born an old man. Caroline questions her mother Daisy about this tale. This is the beginning of the many flashback scenes as Daisy tells Caroline how Benjamin's mother dies while giving birth of him and his father Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng) makes a decision to abandon the baby Benjamin. Thomas dumped baby Benjamin on the steps of a senior home operated by a black woman named Queenie (Taraji P. Henson). Queenie raised Benjamin as her own.
Twelve year old Benjamin's (Spenser Daniels) growth as a old youngster has a reverse physical effect, because he becomes more youthful, but has the mind of a learning child. He soon meets a ten year old little rich girl named Daisy (Madison Beaty) and they become inseparable friends. The story takes on many genres from romantic, dramatic, adventure, and comedic as Benjamin takes on life's journey to many places. Though the theme is similar to the 2004 novel "The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer (about a man aging backwards), it is unrelated. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is as poignant as it is romantic.
Brad Pitt is superb and Cate Blanchett shines. The sequences of the inverted life of Benjamin Button, and the normal aging of Daisy is neatly set by eventually managing to resolve the situation of their love affair in an unexpectedly dramatic manner. By the final scenes of the movie, the storyline simplifies a complex phenomena.
Watching this beautifully crafted opus from the master David Fincher gave me great satisfaction. Fincher is a wonderfully visual filmmaker with a great understanding of how to tell a story with the camera, and this film is a terrific example of his mastery of the craft. This movie is extremely enjoyable due to the expansive visual structure, its incredible set design and stunning cinematography. Supporting cast members Tilda Swinton, Mahershalahashbaz Ali, Jared Harris, Elias Koteas, Phyllis Somerville, Lance Nichols and Rampai Mohadi gave critically strong performances in this absorbing film.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is my personal choice for Best Picture of the Year 2008 although some critics groups and movie goers do not agree with me.
FILM RATING (A+)