By Sandy Barnes
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Brad Pitt, Kate Blanchett, Julia Ormond, Elias Koteas
Run Time: 2 hours 48 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Reviewer’s rating: Two Stars Out of Five
Driving home from spending almost three hours watching ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” I wondered what F. Scott Fitzgerald would have thought about the Hollywood rendition of his short story written almost a century ago. I also vowed not to waste any more precious time on trivia –– whether it be sitting through an overly long, tedious film or scrubbing the bathroom tile grout.
Some critics have praised the film as one for the thinking person. And indeed it might have been, if the story line had followed Fitzgerald’s intriguing, original work. However, after establishing the basic plot of a man born in his 80s who then makes a reverse progression into childhood, the film veers into events and places both disturbing and wearisome. Viewers suffer through far too much on-screen time watching an elderly version of Button’s love interest dying in a hospital while relating her story to her troubled daughter via a diary she is reading.
When Brad Pitt makes his appearance as the youthful version of Button along with Kate Blanchett as Daisy, the love of his life, there is a spark of passion and light to behold. However, neither Pitt’s boyish face nor Blanchett’s ageless beauty can rescue the movie from its divergence into rambling melodrama.
There are interesting aspects to the film, thanks to excellent performances by supporting actors like Taraji Henson who plays Queenie, Button’s adoptive mother. The scenery is also a plus, with lovely sunset views of a lake and a sailboat on which Button and Daisy revel in transitory bliss. And the rambling New Orleans rest home where Button is brought to and ages in reverse is an appropriately dark setting for the film with its related themes of loss and the relentless progression toward death.
Yet, neither the contemporary drama of Hurricane Katrina lashing around the hospital where an aged Daisy spends her final, painful moments on earth nor the computer generated image of an 80-year old infant can transform this film into the cinematic masterpiece its creators were perhaps intending.
Some stories are meant to remain in the minds of readers and listeners, leaving the images they convey to the realm of imagination. As presented, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” certainly is one of them.