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Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swimton, Faune A. Chambers, Jason Flemyng

Director: David Fincher

Screenplay: Eric Roth

Cinematography: Claudio Miranda

Original Score: Alexandre Desplat

Running Time: 166 Mins.

There is much to be admired in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, directed by David Fincher, he behind such cinematic masterpieces as Se7enFight Club and most recently Zodiac, it is the kind of sweeping epic the Academy voters love, hence its 13 Oscar nods. But the Academy is often wrong, Forrest Gump and Shakespeare In Love being two glaring examples and once again I am sorry to report that for all that’s good in Benjamin Button it has some rather large flaws making it little more than Forrest Gump: the arthouse version!

Lest, before I get caught up with whats wrong, this is a film that really does have a lot going for it. David Fincher is no slouch in the directors chair, and once again he has brought his unique style to something that one would think was more befitting of Tim Burton. Sharing the borderline gothic look of his past cinematic masterpieces, including Se7en and Zodiac, Benjamin Button is undoubtably a total feast for the eyes, aided by DOP Claudio Miranda each scene is set and lit as if each moment of the titular hero’s life were taking place in a dream land not too far removed from our own world, but beautiful enough to give it an ethereal quality.

Cutting through the gorgeous look of the film are Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, Pitt is superb, Blanchett on the other hand is deeply underwhelming and woefully miscast, it would seem that when she is called upon to play larger than life characters such as Elizabeth, Bob Dylan or Catherine Hepburn she excels but in romantic fare such as this she stumbles at the first hurdle, the bulk of the film where she plays the young to middle aged object of Benjamin’s desire is dull and empotionless at best but it’s in the needless framing device, in which we cut back to Blanchett on her death bed that really niggle. Overly sentimental and needless in the grand scheme of the story, it’s in these scenes that the film is really dragged down, in quality and pace.

Thankfully Pitt is on hand to bring back the balance, his performance is a wonder, both technically and emotionally. Oft under-rated, he again shows his range playing Benjamin from pensioner to teen, it’s in the earlier half of the film’s long running time that the story is at peak, in playing an child in an 80 year old man’s body Pitt holds your attention and you can’t take your eyes off the screen in disbelief at how Fincher and his team have used the technology to age the star, but beneth all the technical achievements is a performance earning every inch of his Academy Award nomination.

The latter half of the film becomes less concerned with Pitt’s journey and dealing with his plight and more of a love story, with the relationship between the two leads taking centra stage, its passable fare but doesn’t fulfill the promise of the infinitly more interesting first half. As the film approaches its close the use of the dying Blanchett and daughter becomes more pertinant and hackneyed, with the revelation that Button is the girl’s father and having these scenes set against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina, they are two plot devices too many, and your attention wavers when it should grip.   

VERDICT

Far from the masterpiece I had hoped for, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has a great film in there somewhere, and phenomenal performance by Pitt, but it becomes too hackneyed and is plighted by a miscast Blanchett gargling on her death-bed when it’s deeply in need of some emotional pull.

grade-c2 

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