David Fincher's 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' (2008)

My first reaction to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button had nothing to do with the nearly flawless makeup and special effects or the wonderful performances of Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton. 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' posterNo, the first thing I said to my companion when we left the theater was, "That was based on a short story?"

Benjamin Button is long. It's long and it's slow, which generally are not happy bedfellows when it comes to film. The film also feels off-balanced with much of the story taking place when Benjamin looks to be in his eighties to his fifties and the last thirty-odd years of his life rush by in only minutes.

Director David Fincher seems to like working with Brad Pitt who has also starred in two of his previous efforts, the kinetic psychological thriller Fight Club and the atmospheric crime thriller Seven. While Pitt excels in Fight Club, he fails to offer more than one-note performances in their other collaborations. Here Pitt blands his way through most of the proceedings and pretty-boys the rest. Benjamin's unique Weltanschauung becomes buried behind the makeup, and Pitt never creates him as anything more than his singular aging process. Pitt also affects an uneven, at best, New Orleans accent that distracts.

Eric Roth's screenplay may bear some of the blame for Pitt's flaccid interpretation. Benjamin Button feels like an adult version of Roth's Academy Award-winning Forrest Gump in that both stories follow men whose lives have been measured and marked by significant moments in history. Where I came away from Forrest Gump with Forrest's particular understanding of the world, Benjamin's becomes lost in everything that happens around him.

Benjamin Button does offer some nice meditative moments about change, often symbolized by rainstorms, and to a lesser extent about cause and effect. But any larger points about aging, life, and dying that Fincher and Roth attempt to make were lost on me. Perhaps this film deserves a second viewing, but I'm uncertain if I have the patience or willpower to try again.