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Masand's Movie Review: Benjamin Button... long-winding

Feb 27, 2009 11:32 PM IST India India

Director: David Fincher
Cast: Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett

It's an uncomfortable, disturbing idea, and yet it makes for such a fascinating film premise. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, adapted from a short story by F Scott Fitzgerald, is the tale of a man who ages in reverse. Brad Pitt stars as our protagonist who emerges from the womb a tiny, shriveled old man and gets younger and younger, turning into a beefy stud straight out of an Abercrombie & Fitch advert, eventually dwindling into a boy and finally a baby. As a wizened old man at the beginning of his strange life journey, Benjamin meets Daisy, a friendly little girl with striking red hair with whom he has an instant connection. A talented ballet dancer, Daisy (who grows up to be Cate Blanchett) meets Benjamin again as their ages converge; they have a brief, passionate affair, before his unfortunate condition forces them apart.

Despite the remarkable prosthetics and special-effects work used to make characters look older than they really are, the film fails to engage because you can't seem to empathise or even connect with Benjamin's tragic condition. For what's meant to be a sweeping saga of true love lost, this film favors technical trickery over emotional connection to a fault. As a result, it's hard to care about Benjamin or his story.

Over the course of a plodding 2 hours and 47 minutes, this film takes us along on Benjamin's life journey as he loses his virginity at a whorehouse early in the day, then sets sail across the world, embarks on an affair with an unhappily married woman in a Moscow hotel, and even fights in the war.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button does have epic sweep; it's lavishly photographed, and much attention is paid to sets and costumes and make-up, and at least some of the acting is quite spectacular, particularly from the women. Taraji P Henson as Benjamin's adoptive mother, Tilda Swinton as his Russian fling, and Cate Blanchett as Daisy - each invests real 'feeling' into the movie and gives it its stray moments of warmth. Brad Pitt, on the other hands, seems oddly detached from his character, simply going through the motions as Benjamin, never quite getting under the skin or inside the head of this unfortunate fellow.

Because it's long-winding and often dull, and because it largely fails to marry the storytelling with the special effects, I'm going with two out of five and at best an average rating for director David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; you'll discover it never touches your heart because its missing a heart of its own.

Rating: 2 / 5 (Average)

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