Adapted from F. Scott Fitzgerald?s short-story of the same name, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
is the story of Benjamin (Brad Pitt), a man who grows backwards. He is so unsightly at birth that his father refuses to comply with his wife?s dying wish, and leaves the aged looking baby on the doorstep of an old-age home. The inn-keeper Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) takes mercy on this ugly little baby and decides to raise him. As Benjamin grows into a teenager, he starts working for a tugboat captain. The job takes him places and he meets a variety of people. His one love, however, is Daisy (Cate Blanchett), the grand-daughter of one of the inmates of the home. As adults, they meet again, and the two live together, till Daisy gives birth to a little girl. Benjamin realizes his gift of youth is actually a curse and leaves the two.
The story of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
is interesting, but that has little to do with the makers of the film and more with Fitzgerald. It begins promisingly, as the idea of a clock that goes backward and its potential of undoing the ravages of the First World War is interesting. However, apart from the changing appearance of Brad Pitt, the idea soon becomes incidental, allowing the film to slip into an ordinary love story. Using actual political events as a backdrop could have done wonders for the film, but it remains a mere detail.
There are moments when Fincher zeroes in on how the backward ageing can affect Benjamin and Daisy?s life, but apart from his decision to leave Daisy and their daughter, these moments are restricted to fleeting comments that look like lip-service to the grand idea with which the film began. Playing with time is always tricky, and that is where Fincher has shown some serious oversight. He hasn?t thought his main character through. A lot can happen to a man who grows backwards apart from just seeing those you love die before you. That happens to everyone.
The actual story is in fact quite surreal, and it seems the film would have been more gripping if that quality was retained, because that is the only way something like this can work.
Brad Pitt deserves the Best Actor nominations that have been bestowed on him, as he has taken time to give specialized nuances to the various ages he plays. As the young boy trapped in an old man?s body, and as the 20-year-old who falls in love for the first time, he is a treat to watch. He has worked on body language and on expression, making this one of his best performances.
Cate Blanchett, on the other hand, may be one of the finest actress Hollywood has, but Fincher has wasted her. She looks more attractive than she has perhaps ever looked before, but her role is so limited that it doesn?t deserve her.
Taraji P. Henson is a worthy presence in the film, spiking its otherwise slow, somewhat repetitive tone with her performance.
Since Fincher has previously made cinematically rich films like Se7en
and more recently Zodiac
, we know what he is capable of, and keeping that in mind, The Curious Case?
is a disappointment.
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