The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (12A)



Drama (2008)
165mins US

Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P Henson, Jared Harris, Julia Ormond, Jason Flemyng
Director: David Fincher
Writer(s): Eric Roth
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

In 1918, an expectant father gives up his newborn son because the mewling infant looks like an old man, with ossified bones and wrinkled skin. African-American retirement home nurse Queenie takes pity on the abandoned babe and raises the child, astonished that as Benjamin grows older, he looks younger. As the years pass, Benjamin becomes ever more vibrant. When he is eventually strong and old enough to leave the retirement home, Benjamin seeks his fortune aboard a tugboat captained by a hard-drinking Irishman and embarks on a tumultuous love affair with a beautiful ballet dancer.

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LondonNet Film Review
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

Based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button is the frontrunner at this year's Oscars with a hefty 13 nominations...

Taraji P. Henson stars as Queenie in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Photo by Merrick Morton. Copyright 2008 Warner Bros. Entertainment and Paramount Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved.Were it not for Slumdog Millionaire, David Fincher's visually arresting, realist fable would probably sweep the board in a similar fashion to The English Patient. However, this technically dazzling, 166-minute epic still stands a good chance of cluttering the mantelpiece with golden statuettes. Claudio Miranda's gorgeous cinematography shows off the majestic production design to the full, complimented by slick computer-generated effects and Alexandre Desplat's heartstring-plucking score. Yet there is something slightly awry in this fantastical tale of a man, who grows younger not older with each passing day. Perhaps it's the unshakeable feeling that we're being emotionally manipulated, or the pacing, which seems to drag in places with Fincher's directorial flourishes.

The film opens in a New Orleans hospital room where Caroline (Julia Ormond) watches as her elderly mother Daisy (Cate Blanchett) clings to life. To pass the time, Caroline reads from an extraordinary journal. "My name is Benjamin Button and I was born under unusual circumstances..." confides the eponymous hero as we are transported back to 1918, when an expectant father (Jason Flemyng) races home to witness the birth of his son. Mr Button recoils in horror at the baby swaddled in a blanket: the mewling infant looks like an old man, with ossified bones and wrinkled skin, and will apparently die within hours. He abandons the child in the dead of night and African-American retirement home nurse Queenie (Taraji P Henson) takes pity on the abandoned babe, raises him as her own. As Benjamin (Brad Pitt) grows older, he looks ever more youthful. When he is eventually strong and old enough to leave the retirement home, Benjamin seeks his fortune aboard a tugboat captained by a hard-drinking Irishman (Jared Harris) and finds romance with a beautiful ballet dancer, who will pirouette her way into his heart.

Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button and Cate Blanchett as Daisy in Warner Bros. Pictures and Paramount Pictures The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Photo credit: Merrick Morton. Copyright 2007 Paramount Pictures. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button recalls Forrest Gump, possessing the same scope and ambition as it juxtaposes an ordinary man's extraordinary escapades against a backdrop of 20th century American history. Fincher's brio carries the picture through the occasional longueur. He orchestrates some stunning set pieces including an explosive encounter with a World War II u-boat and dazzling sequence about the crulety of fate and coincidence. Digital trickery superimposes Pitt's face onto the bodies of other actors until he is able to embrace the lead role entirely. He perfectly captures his character's inner turmoil; the fear of forging emotional bonds with Daisy or the people he cares about because "while everybody else was aging, I was getting younger, all alone." Supporting performances are equally strong, notably Henson's surrogate mother, who stares tenderly at Benjamin that first night and remarks, "You may be as ugly as an old pot... but you still a child of God."

- Kim Hu


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