The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The most curious thing is how well regarded it is.

Released in 2008, certified UK-12A. Reviewed on 16 Apr 2009 by Scott Morris
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button image

So there was this guy, right, who through the dark arcane majicks of, apparently, a dark arcane clock, was born aging backwards. He starts off as a wrinkly, arthritic, blind baby and gets physically younger as those boringly linear chronological years pass. Er, and his name is Benjamin Button. There's certainly other stuff going on in the film, but it's been a few weeks since I watched it and that's just about all that sticks in my mind about it.

Given the money lavished on it, that's a bit tragic. Given its status, as far as the Oscars are concerned, as contender for best film, it's really tragic. I remember a bit more about it now I come to type this up. Benny's played by Brad Pitt, and the most important strand in his life comes from his relationship with Daisy (Cate Blanchett), a girl cursed to age normally like the rest of us peons.

For a David Fincher film, which this is, which is why I mention it, this seems disappointingly rudderless. Something covering someone's entire life was always going to feel somewhat disjointed, I suppose, but more than anything Button comes across as a series of disparate vignettes with a style more akin to a mash up of Forrest Gump and Big Fish. Except, crucially, not as good as either.

Which is not the same as saying that it's a bad film, by a long chalk. It has its problems, some of which I may even deign to mention if I can remember them. Most of the early running takes a more fantastical, fairytale tone that's reasonably entertaining, an Brad Pitt is more than up to the task of carrying a film that's often far more concerned with stylistics than narrative.

It all stars to go south as the film takes a somewhat more ordinary tone as it delves further into the relationship trails and tribulations between Button and Daisy. Quality and interest levels drop in more or less in a direct relationship with how much screen time is devoted to Cate Blanchett's half-blandly unremarkable, half-minorly irritating performance.

In essence, my main issue with this film is that it's proven to be so unremarkable in the long run that I can barely remember anything about it, and I'm not convinced there's anything to remember from it. There's no real insight into any aspect of the human condition, and the only question it really seems to be posing is "Wouldn't it be weird if someone aged backwards?". And it is. But not weird enough to make a memorable film, apparently.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 3/5 TippyMarks.

David Fincher
Cast list:
Cate Blanchett (Daisy)
Brad Pitt (Benjamin Button)