IMDB Link: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Director: David Fincher
Writers: Eric Roth, Robin Swicord
Stars: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton
Based on: ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Synopsis: Tells the story of Benjamin Button, a man who starts aging backwards with consequences.
Even if you have not seen the film or read the short story that the film is based on, you will most likely be aware of the story of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It is a concept that most people are familiar with, and yet there are so many obvious challenges with adapting this story into a visual medium. However, if there is one director who can take that challenge on and make it work, it is David Fincher.
This is the third collaboration between David Fincher and Brad Pitt, who plays Benjamin Button throughout several stages of his life. The makeup and visual effects work done on Brad Pitt to make him appear like he is de-aging in front of our eyes is incredible, and Pitt sells the performance as well. Cate Blanchett plays Benjamin’s love interest, Daisy, and she also gives a wonderful performance. She actually has a lot of the emotional moments to carry on her shoulders, and it is her that pushes the narrative forward throughout this film.
The concept of aging backwards is an intriguing one, but what this film does is bring the human aspect of that to life. It isn’t simply the case of this man who grows younger, it is the impact it has on the people around him. This is particularly true of his romance with Daisy, and the struggles they face on keeping their relationship potentially going when he ages back to his teenage years and she grows further into adulthood. The film handles that storyline with grace and with honesty.
There are individual sequences that are incredibly crafted and help keep the audience gripped. One scene, in particular, stands out to me and that is the sequence where Benjamin Button talks about a series of minor events that all led to one significant moment. This was beautifully told and highlights the way that all of us think in our day-to-day lives. We all think of the what if’s, and how everything could change if one thing changed ever so slightly. For a film like this to take this approach and viewpoint only adds to the human nature of this story.
This film is incredibly long, clocking in at two hours and 46 minutes long. There are stretches of time that do slow down in the pacing and drag the film on. This is the first of Fincher’s films that does feel like it can overstay its welcome and could do with some editing. I appreciate that the film wants to highlight as many aspects of Benjamin Button’s life as possible, but some of the interactions he has just don’t feel necessary to the story and lack the impact that they are aiming to achieve.
This film is told through the perspective of a diary that Benjamin Button wrote, and I am never usually a fan of this style of narration. It can come off as cheap, and an easy way to telling rather than showing. Whilst I did actually like the style in this film, and found that with the hospital sequences with Daisy that the context for reading the diary was well thought out, I did not need as much voice over as is given throughout the film. It does slow the pacing down and make us reliant on the dialogue to push the film forward in moments, and the film suffers when it makes us rely on the words rather than the visuals.
Overall though, this is another fantastic film from David Fincher. I am seriously impressed at the visual effects for this film, and how they managed to convince me of this man who was aging backwards. The performances are what help bring this magical story to life, particularly from Pitt and Blanchett. I did not expect the story to feel as emotional and human as it was, but that shows the strength of both the writers, Eric Roth and Robin Swicold, as well as Fincher for bringing it all to life.