I saw a short bit on the evening news here in New York by a local movie critic, talking about how there are no good movies in January, and therefore we should all get caught up on the Oscar-nominated films. This post is an effort to save you a little time and money in case you haven't seen The Curious Case of Benjamin Button yet.
There will be some major spoilers in this post, so be warned in case you haven't seen it and still plan to.
Dana and I had been looking forward to this movie for probably six months and finally saw it over the Christmas break. We were terribly disappointed with it for a variety of reasons. But let me preface by saying that when you have two kids, date nights are rare. And there's no bigger of a downer date than wasting a whole evening on a sub-par movie. The money is one thing, but the lost hours and the lost evening are the biggest waste. It didn't help that Button is particularly long (nearly 3 hours!)
The idea of the movie is brilliant: a man ages backwards, born as a tiny old man and getting more youthful as he ages. And who better to cast as the star than Brad Pitt?...our generation's James Dean. The "old man" version of Benjamin Button, apparently built in a fashion similar to
Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies, was believable and showed a personal likeness to Pitt (I suspect Pitt's face was used in some way).
The backward aging is fun to watch, but painfully slow and plotless. Before long, you find yourself hoping they'll skip ahead a decade or two. Unfortunately, more than half of the movie is spent in Button's younger years, while his body looks old: Probably the longest stretch of the film takes place while he looks to be about 55-60 years old (presumably 18-24 years old at the time). But he hasn't seen anything yet, isn't very wise or well-traveled, doesn't make good conversation, and doesn't have entertaining experiences. Then in the last half hour of the film, after you're exhausted and still waiting for some kind of plot to develop, they skip ahead a decade at a time and give brief appearances of Button at different points in his last 25 years. These are the years that I had expected would be the most entertaining of all – a 70 year old Brad Pitt who really looks like he's 25, healthy and strong, and full of all sorts of knowledge and life experience. The possibilities are endless. Instead, we get a few token appearances with
little dialogue as the main female character takes over the final act.I still want my money back.
We left the theater asking ourselves, what was the point of that film? It seemed merely a vehicle to showcase cool make-up and visual effects. To that end, we have to hand it to them. But uh, that was pretty much all we took away from it. The characters were boring. We never cared enough about them to care how their lives turned out. And the self-centered Kate Blanchett, who eventually sort-of came around, was still worried that she looked so "old"when Benjamin came back to see her in her later years. Did she never get the message?? There's more to love than
wrinkles and physical appearance? I'm pretty sure Benjamin saw past that.
And lastly, a technical criticism: Button is born as an infant-sized old man, and while aging backwards he does actually grow taller in his early years. But then at the end of the film, he shrinks again and dies as a tiny infant. To be consistent, however, they need to either make him born as a full-sized old man, or die as an adult-sized infant. I much prefer the latter. In fact, I might not have given a negative review if they could have pulled that off – a six foot tall baby, dying in his bed.
Overall, all Benjamin Button did for me was hint at the possibilities, instead of delivering on them.