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Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

There's really two ways to look at The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: if you're after the quirky tale of a man born old who grows younger with every passing day, then you can probably wander out for a coffee during the middle hour and a half (well, leave after the first hour and come back to catch the final half hour) of this three hour film. If you want to watch a fairly bog-standard love story about a couple who take their time about getting together, then that middle hour and a half is the film for you. Which is a bit of a shame, as while bland love stories between people who aren't all that interesting is pretty much a staple of blockbusters these days, a movie about someone growing younger isn't something you see every day and so seeing a bit more of it could only have been a good thing. The problem really is that once you get past puberty the next thirty years are pretty much the same no matter what direction you approach them from, and even after that there's not a whole lot of difference until you get towards the very end of life. So the decision to fill the space with a love story between Benjamin (Brad Pitt) and Daisy (Cate Blanchett) probably seemed like a good idea, especially as they get to meet in the early 1930s when he looks about 80 and she's barely in her teens. But as they grow up he turns into a fairly bland "everyman" character while she's an arty dancer who's a touch annoying, and who really cares about their doomed love when he's a guy growing old in reverse? The special effects used to create this reverse aging are outstanding and basically seamless and the whole project reeks of class, but for anyone hoping that a life lives backwards who reveal more insight than "being a kid and being an old man are really a lot alike" this has to count as a disappointment.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #444)