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*** Official THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON Review Thread (1 Viewer)

Chad R

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Okay, I saw "Curious Case of Benjamin Button" this weekend. Although I thought there was a lot to like about the movie, I have to say I was distracted by the overwhelming number of similarities to "Forrest Gump." Not just mood, tone or theme -- I mean the films have the exact same story beats. Normally, I wouldn't care because it's been long enough to pay homage to that film, or be inspired by it enough to copy it -- but as they share the exact same writer, It's a bit much.

The point where it finally just crossed the line for me was when Cate Blanchett's character finally decided it was time to be with him. And then, in the narration, Benjamin says "And then, in the spring of 1967, she came back." Which even in the delivery was just far too similar to pretty much the exact same point in Gump, when Robin Wright decided it was time to be with Forrest, his narration said, "And then, she was there." Or more egregious was the point where Benjamin introduced his shipmates with their name, and the city they hailed from. A device straight out of Gump, although in gump it was funny because of the irony that the character's names were city names different than their origins. In this film, it just played as a retread. And the similarities don't stop there.

I mean, there was the fact that both stories are about a disabled person, who can't walk as children, who have a miraculous scene where they "walk" for the first time, who live with unwed mothers in a house with lots of different people who "come and go," who eventually work on a boat, who have a difficult romance with a woman they meet as children where the timing is only right once in their lives, who have children they both worry will inherit their condition, who live extraordinary lives despite their condition.

Both films are chock full of "wisdom" in about every scene (except Button over does it far too much) and instead of a feather you get a humming bird. Oh yeah, there's also a scene in both where the film is artificially deteriorated to introduce the "history" of the character. It just got to be too much.

"Benjamin Button" was too long and needed some serious trimming. At almost three hours you really started questioning the need to carry on sequences as long as Fincher did. At first, I was glad that he took the time to introduce his characters. You don't get that a lot these days. But by the end of the second hour, most of the sequences had made their point and then continued on past that, almost as if Fincher was so in love with the performances he forgot to tell his story efficiently.

There was greatness in it. The performances were wonderful, the effects were amazing, and I loved the sequence where he recounts the little events that led up to a terrible event, that if one thing had changed it would not have happened (although, again, it was too long and we got the point long before it concluded).

But in the end, the similarities to Gump were far too glaring. This film also just didn't have the earlier film's magic. It's almost as if Fincher read the script which was achingly sentimental and decided he was going to shy away from that to make it more "real and honest". The problem is, sentimentality is a real emotion that most people experience. So, since he shied away from that feeling, he robbed his own film of its heart.
 

Michael Reuben

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(NOTE: This review was originally written, in part, in response to a post that is now part of of the Official Discussion thread.)

Well, cool or not, I like Forrest Gump (though I was unsure at first). But I also like Benjamin Button, even though the points of overlap are impossible to miss -- indeed, I was expecting them, considering that Eric Roth had expanded a minor short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald into a screenplay for a nearly three-hour film.

What struck me more, though, were the differences between the two films, not the similarities. And while I agree that Button is a less sentimental film, I don't think it's less emotional. To me, the sadness that informs it throughout is much tougher and more profound.

I haven't completely worked this through yet, but let me start here: Forrest Gump is a character who goes through his entire life essentially unchanged. That's his strength. Along the way, he ends up having a huge impact on the world around him, often by chance and always without intending to do anything other than live his life by the simple values he learned at home. His spirit is aptly symbolized by the feather that is blown every which way but remains unchanged.

Benjamin Button does not change history. Except for those with whom he comes in direct contact, the world remains largely ignorant of his existence. But Benjamin himself is an intensely curious character who is constantly thrusting himself out into the world to see what is there. Unlike Forrest, he struggles and changes, but what makes Benjamin's growth unique is that everything happens at the "wrong" time of life. So, for example, he meets his true love when he's a decrepit old man barely able to walk; he loses his virginity when he's elderly; he has his first great love affair as a senior citizen; he encounters the child he was forced to abandon when both of them are teenagers.
It's the radical disjunction between Benjamin's inner world and his outer circumstances that makes what might otherwise be standard narrative events into the "strange case" of the title. It's a tribute to the performances by Pitt, Blanchett and Taraji P. Henson (and also Jason Flemying, as Benjamin's father), as the characters who are aware of Benjamin's condition, that they can convey this strangeness to the audience with such conviction. That's also the reason I didn't find the film too long; those performances are what the film is all about.

Yes, Button has a hummingbird that reminds you of Gump's feather, but think of the differences between those two objects: one animate and furiously beating its wings so fast that they're almost invisible, and the other inanimate and incapable of directing its own flight.

I have no problem with novelists, filmmakers or screenwriters exploring the same themes in multiple works, as long as they keep it interesting. For me, Roth's screenplay for Benjamin Button more than meets that test, and Fincher's direction is flawless. As for feeling, anyone who can sit through those hospital scenes with Julia Ormond without being moved is made of sterner stuff than me.
 

Patrick Sun

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Fincher directs long films of late, but his pacing is impeccable, and for a nearly 3-hour long film, I found that the film moved at a very natural clip with Fincher's flawless direction, and I think the key is the interspersing of humor at just the right moments that don't feel cheaply deployed. I think I enjoyed the first third of the film more, but the span of Benjamin Button's life told through the memories of Daisy, his one true love, and his journal made for a interesting look at one's age and its impact on relationships, and wisdom that comes with living life, and being open to embrace change and differences.

While I also thought of Forrest Gump while watching this film, the superficial parallels don't undermine the differences in character growth exhibited in this film vs. Gump's lack of character growth (which becomes his strength).

I really enjoyed how Fincher uses special effects to enhance the storytelling, not just become the story, and he and his crew struck gold again with the various ways they aged/de-aged all the main characters, as well as all the details of the historical backdrop for all the scenes.

Both Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchette shared very good on-screen chemistry, and deliver performances that bolstered the story, keeping the audiences invested in the various beats of their lives, showcasing the starstruck couple throughout their relationship.

I found the core of the story to be sentimental, but the film never seems overly maudlin or overly sentimental, rather it quietly simmers with hopeful enthusiasm for what life brings, even when circumstances make for interesting developments in Benjamin and Daisy's life due to Benjamin's condition that has him growing younger as he ages. It's worth a visit to the theaters to see this film.

I give it 3.75 stars, or a grade of A-.
 

Robert Crawford

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This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.


Crawdaddy


 

Chuck Mayer

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I found it to be an exceptional film. I think Michael is correct wrt the Gump comparisons, but the prism of the director is a critical factor, and this film was fundamentally different from Gump (a film I really like, by the way). It's almost a brilliant contrast, in that it does have so many similar elements, but works a completely different magic on it's audience.

I also agree with Patrick that Fincher's pacing is exceptional. The film always took its time, but I was never bored. There were some great visuals, but the film was very centered on the characters. I feel the film should certainly win VFX, by specifically not being showy. This is "next gen" work.

It's a film that stays with you after you leave the theater, not with a specific message or scene, just the accumulated weight of the narrative. I don't want to call it a masterpiece after a single viewing (and I don't think it would be after another viewing), but it's a warm and generous film, and I look forward to watching it again.

9/10,
Chuck
 

Brett_M

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I agree with Michael and Chuck. I found the film to be charming. Great performances and effects.

It's the same plot of Gump but with different themes explored. I can't write it any better than Michael did above. For me, there are two types of main characters. One has an arc, the other makes those around him or her arc.

Benjamin Button is the former, Forrest Gump is the latter.

Anyway, it's worth seeing on the big screen. ****/*****
 

MikeM

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But all the rip off's aside, as you said this movie had no "magic". There wasn't much humor or even conflict to make actually care about the characters. I honestly just didn't care.

* / *****
Huge disappointment.
 

Ronald Epstein

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Just saw a screener of this.

I really had high hopes for this film going in. It didn't overly
disappoint me as it pulled every emotional string in my body.
However, the film's main flaw is the fact that it is tediously too
long.

On the other hand, I was very haunted by this tale. It will
make everyone question their own mortality. It is a film that
will sit with you long after you leave the theater.

Finally, the last thing this film should be called is a rip-off of
Forrest Gump. While the style of the storytelling is quite similar
(same writer), the story is not.

Worth seeing, but I wish that this could have been tightened
up just a little bit better. The pacing needs work.
 

WadeM

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That's how I felt. It was nice to look at, mostly great acting (I say mostly, because I didn't like the hospital scenes), the CGI wasn't too distracting, and an interesting premise....but, the script felt like a rough draft to me, like it was ready to be handed off to someone else who would know what to do with it. It felt a little too long. I didn't care much about the characters. The most interesting part of the movie was waiting to see what Benjamin Button would look like next....hardly enough to satisfy me. Not worth 3 hours of my life.


It was just....there. It was okay. It was missing something. It didn't "hit the spot". This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, but I would rather forget about it.
 

ErichH

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I didn't go into this with any expectation to connect to some other film or story. I did have the impression I'd need to quiet my mind and settle into a simple story (having read the original and an early screenplay)

Worked quite well. Beautiful work. This will replay like a Kubrick film - when I'm in the right frame of mind, or perhaps out of any mood that might distract.

If you're waiting to be impressed by something, you might look elsewhere. It's not that kind of work.
 
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If there's a director's cut, hopefully it's longer. I'm not saying that it needs to be longer; I love it the way it is. I've seen it twice now, and I can't wait to own the DVD to watch it again.

It felt like a fairytale. The similarities with Gump are there, but since the movies are going for different emotions, I didn't mind.

*****/*****



-- edited to add not to second sentence
 

ScottR

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Thought-provoking, touching, and beautiful. Brad Pitt's best work. Best film of the year.
****/****
 

Neil Middlemiss

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This was a terrific, patient and involving film. It played out like reading a book, something so many films fail to do when adapting literary works. Excellent performances throughout, but Taraji was simply outstanding - I see a supporting actress Oscar nomination for her.

Fincher is, as others have said in the discussion thread, a master technician, but he told the story without whimsy, choosing rather to craft a fanstatic tale with roots for true human drama and appreciation. A fairytale without the fairytale. Wonderful.
 

Tim Glover

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I really liked it as many here have but I'm with Ron here...as good as it was, it needed some trimming. I truly think some scenes that took too much time took away from the overall effect.

One scene that I felt was rushed though was....Queenie's death & funeral. This woman took Benjamin in and cared for him etc...and there wasnt enough emotion if you will from him. I seemed to feel more for it. I just feel a bit more on that would have paid off...

It's very well done but it's also a film I wanted to like more than I did.

Still, my rating is very high...could've been even better.

8/10
 

Chris Atkins

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9.5/10

My wife and I greatly enjoyed this film. Fincher directs a technically superior film as usual, with especially high marks for the cinematography and music.

My only criticism (and it is a minor one) is that a number of the characters had dialogue that was exceedingly difficult to hear/understand.

In the end, there is so much to like here, and it felt like a film that would be worth viewing many times again.
 

RobertR

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Saw it today and enjoyed it. It didn't feel overly long at all. It took its time to tell a fascinating life story, and nothing felt padded. I can't think of many other films, if any, that capture the poignancy of the journey through life as well as this one. The feelings and images will stay with me for awhile.
 

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