Brad Pitt has chosen projects with a wide variety of quality in his career. Are we looking at something on the order of Fight Club and 12 Monkeys, or is it closer to The Mexican and Dark Side of the Sun?
Cast and Crew Information
Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button
Cate Blanchett as Daisy
Julia Ormond as Caroline
Jason Flemyng as Thomas Button
Taraji P. Henson as Queenie
Mahershalalhashbaz Ali as Tizzy
Screenplay by Eric Roth. Adapted by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord. Based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Directed by David Fincher
It’s available on a single disc DVD from Paramount, as well as double disc DVD and double disc Blu-Ray editions from the Criterion Collection. The Criterion Blu-Ray was the edition watched for this review.
Benjamin Button was born old, and grew younger as his life progressed, leading to a highly unusual set of problems in life.
“Did I ever tell you I was struck by lightning seven times?”
Though using what looked like old, damaged film for early flashbacks was a neat touch, I had two problems with it. First of all, it’s a reminder that we’re watching a movie. Second, it looked like damaged film, but didn’t sound like damaged film. When you see a break that’s been spliced back together, you need to hear a “pop” or a dead spot a second later. (It takes 1 second for a frame to move from the gate, where the light comes through, to the sound lens, where sound is read optically for the forward two stereo channels. A gap produces a pop when the sound lens light isn’t blocked. The more careful projectionists will use a marker to black out the soundtrack at these points, as a dead spot is less obvious than a pop.)
The short story this is based on was a very original concept. This suffers in this category only because it’s an adaptation. I give it 5 out of 6.
The effects are excellent. This has some of the most convincing aging effects and makeup I’ve ever seen. Add in the intense storms, the changing size of the lead, and who knows how many effects so subtle I didn’t even notice, and you get a movie that deserves its Oscars. (It won for Art Direction, Makeup, and Visual Effects. It was nominated, but did not win for Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing, Editing, Original Score, Sound, Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture.) I give it 6 out of 6.
The story is very odd. The structure is there, as are the trials and tribulations. It’s also rare to see a modern movie in a five act structure rather than three. The continuity was there, as were the plot and character points. It’s essentially a fictional biography; we see all points in a man’s life. The unusual nature of his aging brings a level of interest to a life that would otherwise be frequently mundane. I give it 5 out of 6.
The acting was well done. Hollywood’s loaded with “pretty boys,” but Brad Pitt is a rare pretty boy that can actually act. (Note: the “pretty but talentless” problem is true of both genders in many cases in the profession.) The rest of the cast are similarly effective. I give it 6 out of 6.
The production was very well done. The movie runs two hours and forty five minutes, but it doesn’t feel that long. The editing and other production choices keep it from feeling long. My sole complaint is in the low point, and that’s less than thirty seconds worth of footage in the entire piece. (We’re looking at a third of a percent of the finished product when it’s all said and done.) I give it 5 out of 6.
The emotional response is very good. The average life is filled with highs and lows alike, and Benjamin’s life is no different in this respect. The audience easily goes along for the ride. I give it 6 out of 6.
Overall, it’s an entertaining movie with an interesting concept and excellent craftsmanship. I’m just not sure the concept is interesting enough to hold my attention on that end through repeated viewings. I suspect that any subsequent viewings will be spent studying the way the movie was made rather than getting lost in the story. I give it 5 out of 6.
In total, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button receives 38 out of 42.