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A Cinematic Landmark,
This review is from: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button [DVD]  (DVD)
"The curious Case of Benjamin Button" roundly marks a second masterpiece for Director David Fincher (yes- he of "Fight Club" glory) and charts the difficult (and curious) life of its title character, played by Finchers "Fight Club" protagonist- Brad Pitt. The hero of this piece has the unique affliction of aging backwards, which is to say he is born with failing muscles, skin and bone, proceeds to "grow" into a elderly gent, and from there reverse-ages over the course of 70 years back to new born infant. The story takes the opportunity to poignantly replay much of American history through Benjamin's eyes (a la Forrest Gump) as he grows ever younger (Physically, at least) and gives Pitt the opportunity and scope to set down a masterful and subtle performance throughout. Pitt was rightly nominated for a variety of awards in light of this and frankly should have won more. Benjamin Button is arguably Pitt's most mutli-layered and fascinating creation, even more so than Tyler Durdon. In years to come people may wonder why his name is not attached to an Oscar for this film.
The crux of the story is Benjamin's relationship with Kate Blanchett's character, Daisy. Blanchett plays Benjamin's great love and (of course) more than holds her own in counter-balancing Pitt's performance, constructing their interaction deftly and powerfully as both characters approach the "sweet spot" where they will, for a time, be approximately the same age. Fincher does an excellent job of managing the difficulties and joys of their unique relationship, presenting the twists and turns at an underplayed and a steady pace, rather than shoving it by the spoonful into the audience's throat. Case in point of this is the way Fincher frames Blanchett's death bed story to her child, which serves as the narration of the plot. There is no golden sunset or rousing score on call to drag a lump into your throat and remind you what a magical time it was form them both. We instead find discordant strings, a grey colour tone and a building hurricane outside the window as our backdrop. Fincher has a rare faith in his audience to unravel the crux of his tale for themselves (that of loss, and transition, and fleeting joys), and that faith makes for a consistently more powerful piece throughout.
To focus on the plot alone however, is to entirely miss what it is that makes this film such an important piece of cinema. The talk of the town, and the technological breakthrough it heralds, is the way Blanchett and Pitt are aged throughout the film. To say it left me agape is something of an understatement. I can count on two fingers films I considered a leap of technology, offering the viewer something genuinely revolutionary (Jurassic park and the Matrix) but Benjamin Button is now the third film in that category. To watch Blanchett as a fresh faced 19 year old (devoid of hips or bust and dexterously dancing on a make shift stage) is truly a thing to behold. When you then see Pitt (and this being the "Money shot") as a floppy haired, skinny 17 year old, noticeably younger than when he was in Thelma and Louise... well- it takes the breath away. It was so perfect as to be almost miraculous. The possibilities for actors in their 40-60s to revisit the glories of their youth are suddenly readily available and endless.
But to the credit of the production team the technology on display here is never made the central pin of the story. Those that wish to notice and admire it are invited to do so (and how) but should this pass you by, there is still a wealth of scenery, performance and round accomplishment to digest. Its a triumph in every regard. I don't think it goes too far to say that this is one of the greatest films ever put to screen, for a variety of reasons, and to miss it while it's fresh and clean would be a crime. Watch it now. Or soon. Before everyone knows its a classic.