Friday, January 30, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Or as I came to call it, The Brad and Cate Handsome Show.

I wasn't dying to see this movie but after it got an astounding 13 Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor and Best Picture, I became curious. It is a beautiful movie filled with great technology and performances, but overall I'd give it a B-. To be honest, I was going to give it a C or C+ but the friend who I went with loved the movie and when I told her my struggles with it, she sighed, well I guess I didn't watch it so...critically. Ouch, point taken.

First, I have to give a Shout Out to Myrton Running Wolf! I did "Journey Beyond the West" with him years ago and it was awesome to see him on the big screen as the navyman, Dennis Smith. Second, I have to say that Cate Blanchett never disappoints. Always love her. Third, Taraji P. Henson is wonderful. Though I haven't seen "Vicky Christina Barcelona", of the Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress, Henson would be my pick (Viola Davis will probably win as her character reveals fairly shocking parental choices in "Doubt"). Fourth, though the point of including her character is arguable, I have been fascinated with Tilda Swinton ever since I saw "Orlando" and I was glued to her whenever she was on screen. And finally, for the first half of the movie, I thought Brad Pitt was great. After he starts to hit the handsome point, the Nawlins accent starts to drop, and there was less wonderment of his character except how handsome he was getting. I wasn't grasping that in this young body was an old man. I was distracted by his pulchritude, often thinking, is he going to get more good-looking? And, lo and behold, he would.

Overall, I was distracted by this movie's devices, plot-wise and technically. Back in the '90s, I remember seeing a Martin McDonagh play, "The Lonesome West" and a climactic scene involves blowing away a stove with a shotgun. I hardly remembered anything afterwards because in my mind I kept thinking, do they replace that stove every night? how do they keep all those parts from flying into the audience? Man, I bet the stage hands hate cleaning that up...etc. So yes, this movie is a technical marvel the way it ages Pitt into a tiny old man. But soon I was distracted by the how did they do that? and the makeup of it all. I also felt like some of the scenes were plot devices to force the story in a certain direction (one scene felt lifted out of another famous Pitt movie, "Legends of the Fall") and to allow certain conveniences to the story (e.g., the money he provides near the end of the story).

And it is long. I was aware at one point of stretching my stiffening body, thinking, yeesh, Brad Pitt still has to get even younger... Between the distracting luminosity of the two leads and the length of this movie, I would have gladly taken the second half of the movie as an Annie Leibowitz spread in Vanity Fair.

So if you've got the patience, time, and money, check it out. Given how many Oscars this movie is up for, it has a chance for winning quite a few this year.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, you just saved me thirty bucks: ten which I would have wasted on a ticket, ten for snacks...and ten for "pulchritude"!

Pound said...

i love cate. i want to be cate. but i prob won't watch this movie.

i read the short story a million yrs ago and don't remember it being an awesome love story. wasn't the ending kinda... harsh.

anyway looking forward to lee's w/ you!