Someone tell me: What happened to David Fincher? When the director who brought us uber-dark, smart films such as Se7en, Fight Club and even The Game makes a sap-filled movie the likes of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, you have to ask yourself that question. And the only answer I've been able to come up with is that he must have grown a heart. And, for Fincher, this is not a good thing.
You've heard all about Benjamin Button, surely, what with that leading man, Brad Pitt. Fangirls who want to see hot Brad Pitt, though, will have to wait. And wait. And then wait another hour. Because, for the first portion (and vast majority) of the film he's in heavy makeup, and special effects are used to further make him look like a little old man. It's not clear how they got his voice to do that, but I wouldn't call it "acting" even if it was all his own affectation.
Here's the basic story of the film: An old, old, old (seriously; she might as well be dead) woman, played by Cate Blanchett is on her death bed in a hospital in New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina is approaching. Her semi-estranged daughter (Julia Ormond) is there, and Cate asks her to read from a diary. It turns out it belonged to one Benjamin Button, a man who aged backward. He was given up by his father and raised in a sort of old-folks home by a lady named Queenie (Taraji P. Henson, in a truly star-making performance; really; she comes in and steals the whole damn movie from big stars Blanchett and Pitt). As he "ages" in reverse, he comes into contact with the love of his life, Daisy (Blanchett), several times. He travels the world, fights in a war, falls in love with a married woman (Tilda Swinton), meets his real father, and more. And it could all be grand and epic -- and at times, it really is -- except for the thick layer of sap they're coated the whole thing with. You'll hardly be able to see through it, really.
The biggest sap mechanism is the frame story (the Julia Ormond-Hurricane Katrina plot), because, see, it's really pointless, because the story didn't need it for us to get involved and understand and follow along (honestly; when will filmmakers begin to trust that their audiences aren't idiots? I'm guessing never). Seriously, Ormond (as lovely and terrific is she is) cannot make up for how annoyingly sappy and weird Blanchett is in that old, old, old, old, old (did I mention she's old?) makeup, with an almost indiscernible voice. And it's just not necessary.
The movie might have actually worked quite well without the frame because most other things about it were decent, if not good. Sure, a lot of characters and stories came and went almost inexplicably, making one wonder why the movie had to stretch to nearly three hours if all of these extraneous bits never really amounted to anything. It felt like the movie was trying to be Big Fish, but couldn't make its collage of characters mean nearly as much.
That all said, you might find yourself won over emotionally by the love story, in spite of the movie's high level of cheese (and despite Pitt's rather wooden acting -- and terrible accent, which strangely isn't that bad when he's onscreen, but is horrible in voiceovers). I mean, really, watch yourself or you might find yourself in a crowded theater, watching a movie that's annoyingly sappy beyond belief, and all of a sudden you could end up sobbing almost uncontrollably. I'm not saying that happened to anyone I know or anything, but you never know; it could happen to you.
What did you think of Benjamin Button? Let us know below, then take a magical backwards journey through Brad Pitt's film library.
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