Sunday, August 9, 2009

Benjamin Button Review, Part II

So, where did it go wrong? If you missed the first part of this review, you should know that I loved the first part of this movie- probably about a third of it, as it is a long film. But then The Curious Case of Benjamin Button took a turn, and I have been trying to put my finger on exactly why the last part did not work. The answer, I believe, is that there are several reasons!

First, the writing...Maybe the writer thought the concept itself was interesting enough to carry this short-story-turned-loooonnnngggg-screenplay, but it wasn't. Like anything, without a strong story, it suffers. Things do happen in Benjamin's life along the way, things which should and could be interesting, but for some reason they aren't. He had a lifelong deep love with a woman, played by Cate Blanchett, and I didn't care. He went to war and worked on a boat, and I didn't care. He had a child, and I didn't care.

One of my problems with the story is that the viewer is robbed of the pleasure of discovery. Why write a story about someone so extraordinary if no one, beyond his father and foster mother initially, ever seems to find it strange that he gets younger instead of older. I love discovery scenes. I was left sorely wanting.

A friend of mine said it was a regurgitated version of Forrest Gump, and I have to agree that there are similarities, mainly in tone. The two movies feel the same. Also, they are both about extraordinary boys who live interesting lives in spite of what others see as their handicaps. But BB's is not nearly as interesting, in my opinion, as Forrest's. This leads me to character development, which also goes to poor writing.

Story is important, but when we don't care about characters, who cares what happens to them? I think this was a major part of the problem. Looking at FG again in comparison, we can see strong character development in Forrest and Ginny from an early age. They BOTH face great obstacles. In fact, I would venture that Ginny faces more trouble than Forrest, many either of her own making or as a result of her abuse growing up. We care about both of these characters, and we feel what happens to them, both the good and the bad.

In BB, Cate B's character, Daisy, is one-dimensional. She is a beautiful dancer. She shows up every few years and eventually she and Benjamin do get together and then split up, and that's about it. We have no idea of who she is outside of the knowledge of her as a dancer and someone who likes Benjamin. Usually, I LOVE Cate Blanchett. She is one of my favorite actresses, but somehow, she could not make this one work.

Thus, we have our second problem...the acting. I mentioned in Part I of this review my opinion that Brad Pitt does excellently as his first incarnation of BB, when he is a really old, small man, with a little boy's mind. He is subdued, but you can see the twinkle of youth in his eye. It really was great. But I have a MAJOR CORRECTION to make here to the first blog- even though he looks a lot like Brad in the face, IT IS NOT HIM IN THE FIRST PART OF THE MOVIE. You may be thinking this should have been obvious since he was so small during this segment, but they made the hobbits in Lord of the Rings look much shorter than they were! The actor with the convincing twinkle was actually, according to, Peter Donald Badalamenti II. Sorry for not doing this research sooner! I knew something wasn't right there!

When Brad took over the role, I believe he tried to show us his version of growing up, which was just to grow dull. He lost the twinkle of youth created by his predecessor, and with it went his personality. He shows very little emotion during his adulthood.

There was also no chemistry between Pitt and Blanchett. I have a suspicion that Angelina Jolie was hanging out on the set scaring the blazes out of them. This is something the director (third problem) should have caught in casting, but he also should have pulled better acting out of these guys. I mean, the last part of this movie was a perfect storm of bad choices, but better acting and chemistry between the principals could have saved it partly.

Good things? Make-up, atmosphere, the old people in the home (one of whom is always telling about his seven instances of being struck by lightning), and nice performances from Taraji P. Henson, who played Benjamin's adoptive mother, Jared Harris as Captain Mike, and Badalamenti.

Melanie, one of our faithful readers, commented on the last review, asking how could a story with this premise end well? My answer is that it can end as well as any story about a person's life from beginning to end, but it should have given us a reason to care about the stuff in between. I like to joke that the movie ends when he becomes an atom and then splits and explodes, but that footage ended up being cut. Actually, it ends by randomly tying in Hurricane Katrina. We see the flood waters rising at the train station, and we are shown the basement, where the old clock still resides. Not, I imagine, the original intent of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I don't know anything about acting, but I know I don't really like watching Brad Pitt. He kind of gives me the creeps, I'm not sure why.
    I agree that bad writing can kill a film, though. It sounds like that's part of what happened here.