Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (Fincher)

Or, as I call it, The Curious Case Of The Oscars Totally Fucking Up Cinema. Here we have a movie that could have been delightful as simply a low-key, oddball comedy along the lines of Being There or Zelig and instead I feel like, somewhere along the line, some enterprising young studio exec must have stood up in a meeting and said, "No, no, no, we can win like - a zillion Oscars with this baby!" and so they molded it, however awkwardly, into an English Patient or Titanic wannabe. I don't care whether or not David Fincher wins an Oscar; I just want to see an uncluttered, organic cinematic experience. They sprayed this movie with too many pesticides.

First of all, let me ask you something: what's the moral of a story where a guy ages backwards? I mean, so what? His life's basically the same, except that it's...a little different. Aside from this little twist, Benjamin Button could have essentially been about a person who ages normally. It was like a mildly weird big-budget drama. They should have made it odder, stranger. Even Forrest Gump was weirder than this movie.

That said, as Oscar bait movies go, this is some Oscar bait I'm willing to watch. Even though there are about a gajillion flaws, for some indescribable reason, every scene in this movie is absorbing. If it's not a deep movie, it feels like a deep movie. Also, unlike most films made today, it is actually a pleasure to look at. Yeah, so Fincher doesn't really exploit the gimmick to its full potential, but, on the other hand, that's kind of what I like about it. It's a gimmicky movie that doesn't rely on its gimmick. True, there is no obvious "point" to this movie, but honestly, in an age of Crash and Million Dollar Baby, that's sort of refreshing. I mean, who says a movie has to have a big fat point?

Still, so many things do not work: 1) the whole Hurricane Katrina framing device; 2) Benjamin is born old but still the size of an infant - WTF? Apparently in the short story he's just born as an old man, proper size and everything. That would have made more sense. The bottom line is, I'm not exactly sure what David Fincher was hoping to say here. I believe Eric Roth was simply involved in an Oscar-winning screenwriter's exercise, which was to see if he could rewrite Forrest Gump and still win an Oscar. Well guys, they say it's an honor just to be nominated.

"Film critic" rating: **1/2
"Little Earl" rating: ***


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Herr Zrbo said...

It's like a movie me and a friend came up with a few years ago called 'Oscar: Quest for the Golden Statue'. We had the whole thing worked out, Tom Hanks as the lead, some popular up-and-coming Hollywood actress as the lead, Speilberg as director, a life-threatening iceberg, and a penguin wearing a monocle that says "I do say!" It was going to win us millions (and the Oscar of course).

I still haven't seen this movie, I was mildly interested but I heard it was 3 hours long and somewhat of a snoozefest. Maybe it'll end up on the Netflix queue.

jason said...

I saw this and basically agree, except I would've given it a "film critic" rating of about 1 star.

I can't believe this got nominated for Best Picture, while Wall-E and Dark Knight didn't. I know I'm the 1 millionth person to say that, but still.

ninquelote said...

I was very interested in seeing this movie... until it was nominated for an Oscar. I saw the trailer about a year ago and thought, "Brad Pitt... hmmm... aging backwards... interesting." Then the Oscar nominations came out and I got completely turned off.

I'm sure there were meetings in pre-production where execs were jizzing in their pants at how many Oscars they could win with a quirky, Brad Pitt vehicle. And I can also see David Fincher yanking his hair out and telling the producers to stop fucking with his quirky movie.

Like Zrbo, this movie will probably make its way onto my Netflix queue. I've always been a huge fan of Fincher and his style, so I'm sure I will like it; just didn't want to spend $8 on it.