Monday, June 8, 2009

The Curious Case of Pretentiousness and Thievery


I've tried and tried to come up with some intelligent things to say about this film. I really have. We finished it a couple of days ago, and I've been thinking a lot about how to review it, but I'm having trouble. Fortunately, my lovely wife summed it up pretty well last night. I asked her if she had any further thoughts about the movie, and she said, "Not really. But I like it less and less the more I think about it."

Ladies and Gentlemen - THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON! (Janna's quote was a little too late to make it on the poster)
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After doing reviews for THitPB for a while now, I've noticed a couple of things. It's easy to review great movies. It's also pretty easy to review really crummy movies. But movies like this... they're difficult. It's ok. Fair to middlin'. The easy way out is to do a list, and I'm all about doing this the easy way, so a list it is.

The Good Stuff
1. The special effects are stellar. The first twenty minutes or so are worth the price of admission alone, simply for the way the filmmakers create this little old man in a wheelchair, who also happens to be Brad Pitt. Really groundbreaking stuff.

2. Cate Blanchett is, as always, delightful. And Tilda Swinton's very good, too.

3. It's always nice to see Elias Koteas finding work.

4. Fincher's direction is gorgeous.

5. There's a pygmy in a monkey house.

The Bad Stuff
1. Character Development. There is none. Brad Pitt's character is the exact same guy the whole movie. Doesn't change a bit. Neither does anyone else, with the exception of Blanchett (but her development is largely off screen).

2. Hummingbirds? Really? That's supposed to be Best Picture stuff? Hummingbirds? Janna wrote a way better piece about hummingbirds.

3. I'm sure I'm not the first one to see this, but it's kinda the elephant in the room. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that screenwriter Eric Roth is a big fan of FORREST GUMP. Because the similarities between that movie and this one are striking. You've got a guy who is special in some way that alienates him from society. His life is told in episodic vignettes (using cutting edge technology to make it cooler). They both go to war. They both watch advice-dispensing Momma get old and die. Benjamin's tugboat looks remarkably like Forrest's shrimp boat (you know, for that matter, Captain Mike is very similar to Bubba - it's an accent thing). The desired female goes away to find herself in art (Jenny becomes a folk singer, with Daisy it's ballet). Desired Female comes back to seduce main character. There's a "learning to walk scene" in both movies - it's braces for Forrest and crutches for Benjamin. And dang it if there isn't a scene with a balloon that isn't just like the dang feather. It wouldn't be so bad, but I just didn't care about Benjamin. Not like I cared about Forrest.

4. What was the point of including Hurricane Katrina? Anyone?

5. You know what? The whole frame story thing - Julia Ormond, etc. is totally unnecessary. Coulda cut the run time by 30 minutes and not lost a thing. My good friend Misha Perkins Parker reminded me the other day of Strunk & White's indispensable rule for writers: Omit needless words. They should publish a style guide for filmmakers next and include "Omit needless subplots."

In conclusion, I'm probably harder on BENJAMIN BUTTON than is called for, but the movie asks a lot of the viewer, and doesn't give much back. I'm in agreement with the fabulous Janna - it gets worse the more I think about it. 2 wrinkly infants out of 5.

6 comments:

Kimberly said...

I was once head-over-heels for F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I wasn't the least bit enchanted by this movie. I knew something was wrong, so I went back to look up the short story - which is fabulously absurd & does not resemble Forrest Gump in the least (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper/Fitzgerald/jazz/benjamin/benjamin1.htm). Conclusion: screenwriter smokes crack.

Stacey Lawlis said...

I love Cate Blanchett, so I gave the movie a passing grade. Liked it, didn't love it.

That said: when the hummingbird came flying back to the boat after the ship's captain died, I was immediately angry and pissed off that a screenwriter could be so dumb and cliche and non-trusting of the audience.

the hamster said...

stacey - i love the blanchett, too, and i think she is ravishingly beautiful in the most oddly unique way. i'm just saying.

still, as i said on facebook, this film was a nacho fart in tight pants. i like blanchett. i like pitt. and i really liked pitt's mother in this film. but the film was pooey.

Stacey Lawlis said...

"Nacho fart in tight pants" = stolen, and will be in use for quite some time.

Buck said...

You may already know this, but the screenwriter actually wrote both Gump and Button.

amber@theRunaMuck said...

Now I can't stop laughing at a nacho fart in tight pants.

Barber - Right on. I agree completely. I'm with The Hamster in that I could sit thrilled to watch Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt make Nachos and wear tight pants. I love them no matter what, but the movie? Blah or Eh, either one.