Unbuttoning After Too Much…

January 4, 2009 at 6:57 pm (Movies and TV)

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is getting rave reviews, nominations, and critics’ awards. On the positive side, I’ll say that if you liked “The English Patient,” you’ll like this…and that my Mom is sure to like it.  On the other side, reviewing this movie is kind of like having to unbutton your pants after you’ve just eaten way too much. It’s too much and you need some relief.

It occurred to me that there were three main purposes for this film: 1) To make baby-boomers feel better about getting old, which according to the demographics of Academy voters, kind of also automatically means, “trying for some Oscars.” 2) To allow Brad Pitt to bring some big business down to hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, which for him is a conscience move I can’t fault. 3) A vehicle for the amazing and versatile Cate Blanchett, which…she’s just…awesome. The best in a generation.

Everyone is hearing the buzz about Brad Pitt. Beyond his squinting and looking thoughtful, the rest was makeup; he had the range of cardboard when compared to his Oscar-winning turn in 1994’s “Twelve Monkeys.” The true performance in this one is from Blanchett, though toward the end of the movie I felt kind of like Elaine Benis (“DIE ALREADY!!!”).

The script tries so hard to make pithy observations about life that it inadvertantly sends mixed messages in some cases and in others, throws way too much at you without worrying which couple of things might stick (kind of like reading a whole stack of fortune cookies and trying to remember later what any of them said).  At one point, Blanchett, a ballerina who can no longer dance after an accident, cries when she sees a younger woman getting out of the pool because the woman’s body makes her remember her own, pre-accident body and abilities. Pitt comforts her by saying something to the effect of, “You chose to be something so extraordinary that you couldn’t have been that for long. That life is over.” Then later in the same movie, Pitt waxes philosophical and tells the audience they can always “choose again, start again, make a new life.” Which is it, Brad? Because it’s not always that easy, and as my daughter and I decided later, even less easy for females.

The older man constantly saying “Did I ever tell you, I’ve been struck by lightning 7 times?” happening either right before or right after a major change in Pitt’s character did not give much credit to the audience even though it was kind of fun to watch the grainy footage of those events.

While the ending was not nearly as awful as the one in “There Will Be Blood,” there was no real sense of resolution at the end here….though I will say that the scene where Benjamin Button meets his inevitable end was thoroughly awful to watch and should have been implied, not literal.

I have many more buzzed-about movies, likely Oscar contenders yet to see. My take on this one was, while I can take or leave this one, I can see it getting a few Oscars over more deserving choices simply because a lot of people are ready for “pensive and feelgood” after the last few years of “jarring and pessimistic,” regardless of how trite, how predictable, how forced I found this. I am not sure this is a movie I will be talking about for years to come. Over the next several weeks, I will re-fasten myself and go back to the theater, looking for that one movie that moves you, stays with you, and ages well over time (if you’ll forgive the pun). Button isn’t it.



  1. mssarahmorgan said,

    Good point about the mixed messages – not that every movie has to have a single big message about life – but it felt like this movie kind of wanted to, but it was inconsistent.

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