The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

[6.0]

Just as Robert Zemeckis had to make Forrest Gump and Tim Burton had to make Big Fish, so did David Fincher have to make The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. All three directors are known for their visual and/or technical prowess, and all three felt the need to wring a tear-jerker out of their filmographies, maybe just to prove they could?

Benjamin Button is painted in broad strokes, manipulating us with the stuff of life, love, and death. Based on the story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, it’s essentially about a man (Brad Pitt) who ages in reverse and the impact that peculiarity has on his relationships. The first half of the film takes us through Benjamin’s entire childhood and adolescence. It’s a chore to get through, but once the relationship between Benjamin and Cate Blanchett’s character takes center stage, the film picks up. The plot is thin and details of character are largely absent. Even the title character is a blank canvass his entire life. Maybe it’s like that on purpose — an open pastiche that we’re supposed to place ourselves into.

If there’s anything meaningful to extract from the sentimental onslaught, it might be the importance of being there for the ones you love. Benjamin’s father is haunted by it, and Cate Blanchett’s character is forever changed by it. Even Julia Ormond in the wraparound story is dealing with it. On one hand, I really hate this kind of manipulative storytelling. On the other hand, I was bawling at the end of the movie, so something must have worked. Or maybe I just caved.

With Elias Koteas and Elle Fanning.

Academy Awards: Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup, Best Art Direction

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Supporting Actress (Taraji P. Henson), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Score, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing

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