Fuck the Oscars. Benjamin Button is an overly long, pretentious, smug and utterly, utterly dull film. Usually you would thing the academy awards would at least guarantee some level of quality in film-making and entertainment, nevermind three of them, as well as a heap of other awards, like BAFTAs.
But then again, there was a time when Titanic won 11 Oscars and held the record for nearly ten years. Really? Eleven? Titanic? Celine Dion, Leonardo DiCaprio before he learned to act, poor, shallow characters with nonsensical motivations and Bill Paxton? Really? Yes, fine, the cinematography was very good, it’s just a goddamn shame we have to miss all the cool tragic elements because we have to spend all our time with Kate Winslet’s and Leonardo DiCaprio’s shitty characters and mediocre romance.
The first time I saw Benjamin Button, it was OK. Not terrible, just very long and kind of dull. I didn’t care, I had pizza and beer. The second time, you could see all the cracks. First of all, why is Cate Blanchett’s voice so funny? You know the one, when she is old and in the hospital, and sounds like she is more than 400 years old. Did she really have to be so old? I could understand 90, even 100, but really as old as Galadriel? I know she is a good actress, and it’s very difficult to do an old voice, because physically the voice box of a 40-year-old woman is vastly different from the correspondent of a 140-year-old. But still, if they could have toned it down even a little bit, it would have meant I wouldn’t start giggling every time she talks.
In case you have never seen it, it tells the story of Benjamin Button, born with a medical condition that makes his aging reversed. He is born a tiny old fart, then beginning to get younger and fitter every year, until finally becoming an adolescent, child and finally a sniveling baby. How it is supposed to work, I don’t know. Yes, it’s a fictional condition, but I don’t buy a six foot adult shrinking into a three kilogram baby. It is stupid. Is his metabolism magical? Can it break tissue, muscle and bones into pure ether? Because otherwise…it is stupid.
Anyway, the story is really told by Daisy (Cate Blanchett), who has a life-long romance/friendship with Benjamin, where the tragic element is supposed to be that they are physically the same age only for a small fleeting time, before their age-gap begins inevitably to widen again.
The big problem of the film is the tone, which really rubs me the wrong way everywhere. Starting from Brad Pitt’s terrible fake Southern accent, the film just takes the piss. It is absolutely horribly pretentious, smug and pleased with itself, fully confident in itself and its infallible ability to charm the viewer, with the quirky story of Benjamin Button with it’s quirky fucking premise, going on to lead a rich quirky life meeting a huge variety of quirky fucking characters with quirky fucking back-stories because everything has to so ffffucking quirky.
This is one of those movies with a story to tell. Imagine a smug old bastard who you meet in a cafe, or on a bus stop, who can’t wait to initiate you and burden you with every excruciating detail of their fascinating lives and all the wisdom it has brought them. The kind of person who is absolutely confident that their story is so goddamn charming and unique and full of life, that you are going to walk away changed. That is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Very similar to Big Fish and Life of Pi, it tries to aspire to replicate the style and consequent success of Forrest Gump. The vast difference being, that Forrest Gump was a lot more interesting and better made, for one, because telling the story through Forrest’s own perspective, we have understanding of the things he does not. Because Forrest is not mentally competent, but we are. Yet still Forrest has an amazing life with amazing characters and funny mishaps, and its all the funnier because he doesn’t understand it himself. It is much more neutral in its tone and respectful to the viewer, because it lets you figure out the movie, and whatever significance it may have. Not rub your face in it screaming “Be charmed, you motherfucker”, with the same sort of tact and playfulness as a date-rapist.
To recap: not a good film. You might like it, I don’t know. Maybe you also like to cover yourself in marmalade and glue leaves onto your body, calling yourself the Tree Man and write fan-fiction starring yourself, making cracks about how you always have wood. I don’t know. If you think the story sounds interesting, then my advice is to read the actual story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. And not to write fan-fiction starring yourself, that’s creepy.