The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.Directed by David Fincher.In cinemas February 6.

Starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Directed by David Fincher. In cinemas February 6.


Honestly now, the completion of the Fincher/Pitt trilogy is enough to make anyone salivate like an uncut male dog at Crufts.

It began with the haunting Seven (or Se7en for pedantic types), that marked David Fincher down as a director to look out for (after the particularly drab Alien 3). It also placed Brad Pitt in a serious role that didn't completely rely on his looks. It was an almost comic book tale, Sin City-like, that had a classic twist and visuals to die for.

Next up was, in my opinion, the ultimate Brad Pitt movie - style, modern and based on a book they proclaimed was near unfilmable. But he pulled it off, and although at first a seeming box office flop (though, to be fair, it was released at the same time as The Matrix, Phantom Menace and... the new Adam Sandler hit movie!) it later conquered the charts on its release on DVD.

Pitt's role as Tyler Durden, now one of the coolest movie characters ever, was suave, gritty and unforgettable - and now, ten years later, the trilogy completes.

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The final movie is, the trailer would suggest, rather different from the gritty, modern yarns that the first two told. Based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, though reading the Wikipedia article suggests that only the title, main protagonist's name and the whole ageing backwards thing actually stuck it through to the final script.

As well as Pitt playing Benjamin Button, it also stars Cate Blanchett (the whole spelling her first name with a 'C' instead of a 'K' still annoys me), and the countless movie posters that have dominated the tubes and bus stops suggest she plays a pretty massive role.

Oh, and with thirteen Oscar nominations, the most for any movie this year, this looks like it could be something special.


Dear me, that was long. Not that it's a huge problem, but when I read this was based on a short story I kind of expected a short movie. Clocking in at just less than three hours, it certainly lasted the distance. Did it drag though? At certain points, yes. It's a movie of absolutely brilliant points and really tedious points too... the good, the bad and the not-at-all ugly.

The good: it should be a masterpiece, as it does have all the pieces to be one. The beautiful romance of Pitt and Blanchett is believable and touching, his journeys and dilemmas through time are endearing and his heartbreaking ageing (or younging) is bittersweet but surprisingly realistic.

It starts off just after the First World War and you do get a sense of each decade as it passes (into modern day, roughly). You do feel, throughout, that you are seeing the life and death of so many characters that you know, even if they don't play a major role in the movie at all. My favourite was a Mr Daws, who tells Benjamin at numerous points that he'd been struck by lightning seven times (with a little clip each time). It's not need, doesn't push the story further at all - but it's charming.

"Your life is defined by its opportunities... even the ones you miss." - Benjamin Button

The bad: the moments of complete samey-ness, those movie-moments that we have seen so many times that have managed to sneak into this movie too.

The big example is the dying old woman in modern times, who tells her daughter to reach over for a diary in her bag and to read it to her. And, oh, that's how the story is played out. The old diary narration is seriously old, lazy and derivative.

Secondly, the whole premise is such an opportunity to show off the decades, use them as narrative tools to push the story forward... but it's just kind of lost. At no point in the sixties was there a sense of, well, the sixties. Or during any point in time, at all. There was the dress and cars of the time, but that is about it. It just seemed like a huge missed opportunity, especially when fifteen years ago Forrest Gump traversed across decades and really gave a feel for each period - I just question why Fincher decided to not do this.

Thirdly, and probably most annoyingly of all, is the whole old woman dying in bed and being read the diary thing... that's bad enough... but then they tack on an embarrassing, genuinely cringe-worthy Hurricane Katrina sub-story in the hospital that just seemed, well, tacky.

And the not-at-all ugly: it does look really beautiful throughout. From the title character's aging process, that is a miracle of make-up and prosthetics (I don't think too much was CGI?), to the incredible cinematography all the way through the two hours and 45 minutes. No expense was spared it seems, and it really does feel like a work that's been carefully, lovingly constructed - a work of art in a sense.

But, ultimately, did it meet match or surpass my anticipation? I'm not sure, as it worked in some senses so, so well... it just had some niggling flaws that tainted something that had such potential to be a classic.

It is definitely worth a watch for the stunning visuals and fantastic performances from all those involves, just make sure you take a few snacks, enough drink and a pillow to stop your bum going numb.