Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

A Paramount Pictures release 2008

Directed by David Fincher

Written by Eric Roth

A man is stricken with a bizarre condition and forced to go through life aging backwards.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is really long. And boring. And nothing like the book at all.

It's a shame too, because I really like Dave Fincher. Fight Club and Se7en are both wildly entertaining, and Zodiac is one of the most criminally under-appreciated masterpieces of all time. He's got a sharp, distinct visual style and a gritty sense of story. None of which serve this film in any real way.

Oh sure, Benjamin Button is pretty. The cinematography is gorgeous, lighting incredible, effects are grand, and Cate Blanchett looks damn fine in that leotard. But the film is all gloss and no depth; it's so vacant it makes Postal seem like an honest treatise on the sociological effects of 9-11 on American Imperialism and suburban violence.

NOTHING happens in this movie. Nothing worth noting at least. Benjamin ages backwards, but it doesn't seem to matter -- when he's old (young), people just make cracks about how spry he is, and when he's young (old), people just seem to want to sleep with him. Brad Pitt provides his pretty face but not much more in terms of emotions; he seems to just waltz through the movie as if nothing is even happening.

Part of the reason for that is the terrible, terrible script. The whole "aging backwards" thing is basically treated like a special effect -- if you took it out, you'd lose nothing but a few quips, a handful of jokes, and some cool special effects. Eric Roth took a fantastically funny short story, ran it through a shredder, mixed it up with some scenes that got cut from Forrest Gump, put it together with some duck tape and handed it to execs with the pretense that it's some big "meditation on life and death". What a crock of horse shit -- really it's a meandering mess that has absolutely no focus with a dash of pretension and a butt load of basic Hollywood romance.

None of which services Fincher's abilities. The guy can piggy back of most 70's era filmmakers, but Button is clearly old Hollywood, and Fincher flounders. The film doesn't know if it wants be a somber tale of woe, a fantasy epic, or a comedy, and it fails at all three. Fincher's dark color palate and brooding camera doesn't make it any more clear.

My advice: don't waste your time with this one. It commits the worst of movie crimes -- it's over 3 hours long and boring as hell. You're seriously better off watching Postal. Not joking.

No comments: