When F. Scott Fitzgerald penned the short story in 1921 that lends its name and basic plot to this film starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, he probably never imagined his piece as such a grand cinematic spectacle almost a century later. The costumes and environment provide a rich backdrop that gracefully shows the progression of time as Benjamin’s tale develops. Pitt and Blanchett age artfully and believably throughout the movie. Essentially, the story is of a man whose life is shaped by his aging process occurring in reverse order. Pitt takes on the role of the title character, who is born resembling an elderly man and dies an infant. Blanchett plays Daisy, Benjamin’s childhood friend, who grows close to the youth despite his octogenarian appearance and eventual love interest.
The two celebrities are unable to carry the movie as well as I would have hoped, particularly since at least one of them was present in every scene for a movie lasting almost three hours. Pitt tries to match his portrayal of Button with the maturity level of his age, but fails; Benjamin always seems to be simply waiting for something to happen to him. In my opinion, Pitt’s best moments were during Benjamin’s time in the nursing home, where he quietly learns life lessons from the inhabitants. The only other bright point in his performance was during Benjamin’s teenage years, where, for the most part, he simply stands there looking radiant. Blanchett’s performance in particular cannot be described as anything other than placid and at some points completely disengaged from the role.
It is the supporting cast and the screenplay that redeem the movie. Tajari P. Henson shines in her supporting role as Queenie, a caregiver at a nursing home who takes Benjamin Button in and raises him in his early years. Tilda Swinton brilliantly portrays Elizabeth Abbott, the wife of a well-to-do man who secretly meets Benjamin in the evenings, and can’t stop wondering where her life went. It is the perfect balance of wistfulness and self-defeat without coming off as depressing, and this small role propels the plot at a time where it would have otherwise fallen to a dead halt. The clock at the train station and the tale behind its creation is incredibly poignant, and is my favorite scene of the entire movie.
I recommend this movie for a day when you are ill with the flu and need a decent movie to fall asleep to after an hour or so.
CCBB would not have been that great of a film if the director was not patient with the overall film time. The movie was close to 3hrs, which actually did the job in showing Benjamin as more than just a fictional character. Though, sometimes the flash forward scenes back to the hospital were unnecessary. The movie reminded me of Tim Burton's Big Fish, where fictional, fairy tale-sort of a story gets a fine tuned blend with the real world.
Sun, Feb 22 2009 @ 9:42 pm
I totally agree that the three hours were necessary to fully develop Benjamin. My issue is that Brad Pitt does a very poor job of said development, which caused the time to drag on instead of feeling that it was time well spent, as three and a half hour-long "Gone With the Wind" did.