director: David Fincher
starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Julia Ormond, Taraji P. Henson
There are movies you’ll go see having heard next to nothing about, perhaps only having seen the poster or a brief trailer while watching television. I knew very little about Benjamin Button prior to heading into the theater, other than it starred Pitt and was directed by Fincher. The latter is pretty much enough to get me into the theater, Fincher being one of my favorite directors. But it’s always nice to have your faith rewarded with an outstanding moviegoing experience. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was a highly enjoyable experience, and it is most certainly on my official top ten list for 2008 (were there an actual, official top ten list penned by yours truly, you’d surely have seen it by now….OR WOULD YOU HAVE?!).
Fincher’s always exemplary direction results in one of the few instances I can tangibly identify what I enjoy about the art of direction–every shot he authors has so much to look at; and it’s clear a lot of thought went into composing each of them, regardless of whether it’s a shot of Benjamin’s thoughtful contemplation, or a simple shot of a water heater–it’s art. (Yeah, I’m probably going a bit too far here, but there’s so little to like about Hollywood these days, I’ll go overboard when I come upon something great.)
The cast is excellent across the board; yes, even Hollywood prettyboy Brad Pitt. But he’s getting paid a ton of money for a reason, both in terms of talent and box office caliber. It’s an understated performance, but one that shines through all the makeup and effects required to age him from old to young. That’s not to the say the makeup and computer effects aren’t good; on the contrary, they’re fantastic.
Story-wise, it has an epic, decades-spanning feel, which is always a pleasure when it’s a quality film. If done right, you truly do feel like you’re been on a journey with the characters. As trite as that may sound, that’s the power film can have if you let it. Three hours is a long-ass time to commit to anything in our short-attention span society, so if you can find something that takes your mind off the daily grind of human existence (am I overselling it again?), grab hold of it! Capable directors and editors don’t have to trim running team by excising “unnecessary” scenes in the name of financial potential and box office runs. Despite the movie’s near-three-hour running time, it breezes right on by, and you’ll probably be eager to see it again at your earliest opportunity.
Another vague, rambling review meant to keep you in the dark as much as possible while expressing my enjoyment of the film. Go in not knowing what to expect and I think you’ll have a good time. I found an unexpected pleasure this winter, one I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did.
Dear God, did I just write that?