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VINE VOICEon March 19, 2009
The Curious Case of Benjamim Button is by no means a feel-good movie. In fact upon watching it, I felt depressed even the next day just thinking about it. People may confuse this for a love story but to me the film clearly symbolizes death. The love aspect is certainly present, though it is not the center of attention here.

Brad Pitt stars as Benjamin Button, a man who essentially ages backwards. When he is born, his own father attempts to drown him before a sudden change of heart has him leaving the swaddled and very whithered newborn upon the steps of an elderly home. There he is found by Queenie, played to motherly perfection by Taraji P. Henson. She sees past the deformity and oddity and loves him immediately.

Instead of dying, as a doctor predicted, Benjamin actually begins to age backwards. He appears as a very old man and slowly grows younger, but only in body. His mind seems to function as a typical human's mind. He learns, and dreams and experiences. This basically sets up the magnificent story and from then on, you are taken from country to country, from one decade, to another and it is just superb to witness.

The acting is fantastic all around. Brad Pitt does an outstanding job, portraying both the old Benjamin as well as his younger counterpart. Cate Blanchett as his childhood friend/love interest is also a joy to watch. She can do no wrong, she is simply stunning. For such a short part, Tilda Swinton surely makes the most of it. Her tale and part with Benjamin in Russia is just stunning. There is also the talented Julia Ormond, who has a bigger part to play in the tale than we may realise at first.

The most impressive aspect of the film is the flawless visual effects. Just flawless. You have never seen aging/deaging done like this. There is a scene, towards the end, with Benjamin and Daisy (Blanchett) that had my jaw dropping. It was like looking back in time. I can't describe how utterly impressed I was. The cinematography, the sad musical score, the costumes, just every little minute detail is just so impressive and authentic.

I have heard grumbles from people who compare it to Forrest Gump. What? How? There should not be any comparing the two films-or the two characters. Gump was a slow and mostly ignorant person who fell into unbelievable situations. Button clearly chooses his own paths, though it may not seem it, at the beginning. It irritates me how someone can make such a comparison.

This is a long film, nearly three hours, though with the plot and subject matter, it makes sense and really, it is such a beautiful film, you hardly notice the passing of time. Like I mentioned, it will leave you feeling blue but that does not diminish from the fact this is one of the better newer films out there now, and one that people will remember in the future.
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on September 18, 2012
This movie was wonderfully done. They recreated points in history that looked amazing. The special effects of reverse aging looked incredible, to the point where you almost wanted to skip ahead just to see how it would turn out. The acting is phenomenal and the story sucks you right in. This was a tremendous film and definitely worth owning. Needless to say, Criterion always treats their films well. It costs a little extra, but it's always worth it.
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VINE VOICEon March 24, 2009
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is a wonderfully staged fantasy based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's fantasy about a boy born old and aging younger instead of older. The story could obviously be off-putting and distracting, but everyone involved does such a magnificent job of telling this story that it is not hard to accept this as fact, and following the story as it shows Benjamin growing younger and falling in love with a young girl named Daisy.

Benjamin and Daisy's story and the balance of Benjamin's life impart so many valuable life lessons that it is hard to recount them all - the idea that life brings many hardships and the best we can do is doing the best we can with what we're given, making the most of every moment because life is fleeting and unpredictable, find the joy and happinessin life and hold on to it dearly, and many other lessons.

"Benjamin Button" gives Brad Pitt the chance to shine in the title role, and he makes the most of it. He is ably assisted by Cate Blanchett as Daisy, Taraji P. Henson as Benjamin's adoptive mother, Tilda Swinton as another love of Benjamin's, and many others. This film is marvelous and a hopeful fable for all of us.
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on June 12, 2009
Visually, this is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. Every period in the film, from the roaring '20s of Benjamin's earliest years, to the 1960s when he lived briefly with the girl of his dreams, are captured almost perfectly onscreen. The cinematography is practically flawless. The film is so wonderfully atmospheric it's almost worth watching for that alone. The special effects are remarkable as well. At different points in the film, both Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt are made to look roughly twenty years younger than their actual ages. This is relatively new in film. It's been possible since the medium began to age actors with makeup, but now it's also possible to de-age them through the magic of CGI. So where it would once have only been possible to make this film using very young actors to play the leads, and use make up to age them into their 40s and 50s and beyond, they can now cast established stars in their 40s and still have them convincingly play characters just out of their teens. The technical wizardry behind this is amazing, and it's yet another example of the magic of the movies.

So on technical merits alone I'd give the film 5 out of 5 stars. Unfortunately, the story does not quite live up to that high standard. It's not bad, to be sure; I did enjoy the movie, but I couldn't help wonder, at the end of it all, what the point was. As the reviewer for the Sunday Times aptly put it: "It's a gimmick that goes on for nearly three hours." Now I don't think every story has to have a moral, or a great message, or all kinds of weighty allusions and themes, and so forth. But simple, escapist entertainment just works better as a comedy or an action piece. A moody, character-driven drama, one can't help but feel, ought to have a little more to say. This movie, enjoyable as it is, seems like nothing more than an exercise in "what if" thinking -- what if a man could age backward? What would that be like? Storywise, the film seems to have nothing to offer beyond that, and one really doesn't need a 2 1/2 hour film to spell out all the sorrowful ramifications of such a scenario.

Still, the film is good for an evening's entertainment, and is a feast for the eyes. Cate Blanchett is nearly always worth watching, and Pitt gives a very good performance as well.
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on June 15, 2009
This is, while a technically brilliant piece of filmmaking that fully exploits all the wizardry of CGI and makeup of which the filmmaker's art is now capable, strangely hollow at the center. One begins the movie expecting some profound truths about human existence to be explored, but it ends not with a big life-affirming bang, but more of a whimper, quite literally. Benjamin says though his diary at one point: "Life is defined by opportunities--even the ones we miss." And that could be a sum-up of this film project as a whole, as well as the life of the bizarre hero at its center. One gets the sense of promise grasped for here but not quite realized as the technical and stylistic gymnastics of this movie overwhelm the fragile love story that should be its beating heart.

The film opens with Mr. Gateau (Cake) constructing a magical clock that runs backwards and mounting it in a train station in New Orleans in honor of his son, dead in the Great War. No mention is made again of Mr. Gateau or whether his clock was successful in rewinding time to bring dead boys back to life. It does have a curious effect on the life of one boy, though, as Benjamin enters the world essentially running backwards. As other reviewers have pointed out, it's quizzical that the clock has this metaphysical effect on only Benjamin among all the other children born afterwards, but then, fantasy is not required to operate by the rules of logic. Perhaps Benjamin, with a Gullah mother was particularly susceptible to magic, and how serendipitous that old-man baby Benjamin's grieving father abandoned him, along with $18 on the steps of an old-folks home, rather than say, a brothel . . .this being New Orleans, after all. What are the chances, outside the realm of fantastical fiction, furthermore that Benjamin's progenitor be named Mr. Button, and that he own a button factory? Otherwise we wouldn't have such nifty alliteration.

Countless comparisons have been made to "Forrest Gump", with which this narrative does share structural similarities. However, that didn't occur to me while I was watching and found instead resonance with one of Pitt's earlier characters, Tristan Ludlow from "Legends of the Fall"--like Benjamin, Tristan is a soul set apart, blessed or cursed with mystical powers he does not fully understand; uncomfortable among other people and destined to lose the true love of his life due to his own inability to live a normal life. Scenes of Benjamin travelling to foreign shores and sailing a boat underscored this impression. (The presence of Julia Ormond, here playing the adult daughter of the aged Daisy was just a bonus, since she and Pitt have no scenes together.) The setting of New Orleans during Benjamin's childhood in the early decades of the last century also reminded me of Louis Malle's "Pretty Baby".

This film is technically dazzling, but I think it was justly deprived of the top acting awards. With so much else to be distracted by, the acting had a job of it to even be noticed, really. Cate Blanchett is luminous, as usual. I had my doubts a 38-year-old mother of three could pull off a 23-year-old ballerina, but La Blanchett can do anything. The greatest curiosity I had, to be honest, was in how they were going to make Brad Pitt look 18 again. Brad has taken pretty good care of his body over the years, but the strain of being father to the United Tribe of Benetton is starting to show . . .at least when he's not on a movie set. When he's lit and coiffed for a film, he does not look anything like a 46-year-old father of six. He can easily pass for a decade younger . . .but I thought 18 would be pushing it. Well . . . did I say that the makeup department is amazing?? Looking at the scene of an 18-year-old Benjamin coming to visit the now-58-year-old Daisy--wow. It was like having a flashback to Mr. Pitt's debut in "Thelma & Louise", and it was a very unsettling feeling. "Unsettling" is the best descriptor for this movie. Parts of it were stunning to look at, but its tragic meditations on the ultimate inablity of love to bring any meaning to human life leaves you wrung out and uncertain whether you are better off having seen it than you were before.
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on October 1, 2015
***SPOILER ALERT***
If youth is wasted on the young, then Benjamin Button has it made. He is born an old man, and spends his life aging backwards towards his teenage years, and eventually to a babbling baby boy. He will spend his twilight years in the body of a young Brad Pitt, a fate most of us could only pray for. But there’s always a catch. He has to watch everyone he loves grow old and die while he only gets younger and more attractive. Benjamin Button is born in 1918, under ‘unusual circumstances’. You can say that again. His mother dies in childbirth, and his father abandons him on the steps of an old-age home. He is taken in by Queenie (Henson), a spirited woman with buckets of love and affection to spare. Baby Benjamin is believed to be on his way to the grave, but as the years pass, his body gets younger and younger. Is it miracle? Is it good luck? Is it bad luck?
A pre-teen Benjamin falls for Daisy, the granddaughter of one of the nursing home residents. Benjamin is told that he can’t be seen hanging around a little girl, for the obvious aesthetic reasons. However, Benjamin will eventually lose his wrinkles and Daisy will eventually grow into Cate Blanchett. In the future, there might be a small window of opportunity for these star crossed lovers to be together.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is tailor made to tug at the heart strings. Daisy and Benjamin may be able to meet in the middle of their lives, but they can’t grow old together. It’s a doomed romance if ever I’ve heard of one, but it’s not the tearjerker people are going to expect. This mostly has to do with Benjamin’s own passivity. He wanders through life like a tourist, seemingly bored by those living full lives around him. He’s detached from death, and, as the title implies, more curious of people rather than affected by them. “I was just thinking how nothing lasts, and what a shame that is,” he tells Daisy late in the movie. It really feels as if the great tragedy of his life is just ‘a shame’ to him, and little more.
By the end of the movie, Benjamin and Daisy’s doomed romance hasn’t really left a mark on us like we’d have hoped.
It’s not that the incredibly talented David Fincher is the wrong man for the job. In fact, Fincher is probably the right man for any job. The film is technically spectacular and beautiful to look at. I don’t believe it’s his fault that we can’t connect with Benjamin. Nor do I think its Brad Pitt’s either. He puts in an amazing performance, particularly in the beginning as a naive young boy. I guess this disconnect just comes with the territory. A man who ages backwards will never be able to bond to another person in a truly meaningful way. We can barely be expected to return affection that isn’t there.
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on June 11, 2016
Spoiler alert! Thomas Button arrives home to New Orleans after the cessation of WWI to the birth of his son, Benjamin (Brad Pitt), in 1919. The mother succumbs, and Thomas abandons the days-old infant on the doorstep of Miss Queenie. She is a black woman and head of household, who sees the baby as a miracle delivered from God to cherish. She adopts and raises the infant as though she gave birth to him, as if he was her own flesh and blood. During a Thanksgiving Day reunion in 1930, Benjamin becomes acquainted with 6-year-old Daisy (Cate Blanchett). In 1936, Benjamin, 17, leaves home and his tearful mother, Miss Queeie. He travels the world by sea for three years to Newfoundland, Baffin Bay, Glasgow, Liverpool, Narvik, and finally settles in India. After the Pearl Harbor attacks on December 7, 1941, Benjamin enlists in the Navy. In May of 1945, at 26, he returns home, looking more youthful than when he left. By some blazing genetic mutation, fantastical twist of nature, Benjamin was aging in reverse, getting younger (he was born in a decrepit, elderly state but rejuvenates physically, although he regresses from emotional maturity to immaturity as he ages). He intercedes into Daisy's life, once again, in the Spring of 1962, they elope, and have a daughter, Caroline. Though she did love him, he did not want to make a long-term commitment. After his daughter's first birthday, Benjamin tells Daisy that he is leaving her, because he doesn't want to burden her with raising two children, raising Caroline and himself, as he regresses. She was shocked by his departure. He rationalized he was doing it for Daisy, but selfishly relieved himself of any responsibly, so he could travel again as he did in his chronological youth. Fortunately for Daisy, she reunited with a former lover that became her caring husband and Caroline's surrogate father.
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on March 14, 2015
If you don't know how to make a good thing last long, this is the movie you should watch. Not stay young forever, not getting richer everyday, not riding cool motorcycles and watching the sea in every Sunday night. Romance is magical but romance is just hard to last long. It's those little lovely details in your memory make you pity and happy. When something good is happening, cherish it. When something good is about to end, don't swear or cry, just let go. Remember those little things that get you emotinoal and move on like a rational human being. Time always travels fast but sometimes, time does slow down a little bit, and we just need to find that rhythm. Daisy didn't die in Benjamin's arms but who can say that the love between Benjamin and Daisy didn't last long. And I think for most people, that kind of love is long enough.
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on January 29, 2014
I'm only mentioning this because I read it in other reviews prior to watching the movie; something I normally don't do and wish I hadn't. A correlation was made between this movie and "Forrest Gump" and sadly, for me, I was so distracted by that for about the first hour, because I kept trying to find the correlation and couldn't (and I've seen "Forrest Gump" at least 100 times; literally). In any case, I finally gave up on trying and watched the movie on it's on merit. That correlation, or certain similarities, DID come to me as the movie progressed, but I sincerely believe that had I not read those reviews, I would not have made the correlation otherwise, as I was so wrapped up in THIS story; which stood entirely on it's own. It was just as equally and uniquely different as "Forrest Gump", so I'm not crying over spilled milk, because I absolutely LOVED this movie and plan to watch it over, and over, and over again until my one month streaming rental subscription ends, because that's how much I loved it. I'm an NOT a professional critic either, just a movie lover. However, IMHO, this movie was so exquisitely acted (and narrated) by both Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett (as always on both counts) as well as the entire cast, and everything from the set designs to the special effects and special effects make-up artistry, to the costumes, lighting, and timing was just perfect in every way. It is most definitely a bittersweet story, but not one which I found at all depressing as mentioned in another review, Although I cried many times during the movie, they were indeed both happy and sad tears. The bottom line is that, in the end, it totally depends on how you look at life and how you deal with it. If you are cynical or a pessimist, then this movie might well depress you, or you just simply might not enjoy this type of movie. However, if you have a glimmer of faith, or you believe in fate and that everything happens exactly how and when it's supposed to, or if you're a dreamer, like to fantasize, or you're an optimist, OR if you could ever even begin to imagine living your life in reverse as "Benjamin" lived his, then you just might find the beauty in this story. At least I did. Wonderful story, wonderful movie, and I don't know why, of the many other awards it did receive, why it did not garner ALL of them!!! FIVE ***** all the way!!!!!!!!!
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on August 2, 2013
I get tired of all the similar plots and the emphasis that movies put on special affects versus the actually story line. This movie is so creative. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in something that is outside of the box and very entertaining.
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