The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Review
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Director David Fincher has made a name for himself as a gritty director. The former music video director (who’s worked with everyone from Paula Abdul to Sting) seems to gravitate toward films about crime and violence—from 1995’s Se7en to 2007’s Zodiac. But while Fincher’s previous films have sought to make his viewers’ hearts race, his latest film will touch viewers’ hearts in an entirely different way.

Based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button tells a beautiful yet light-hearted story about a very unusual character. Born at the end of The Great War, Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) was unlike any other baby—and after his mother died giving birth, his father abandoned him. You see, Benjamin was born with the characteristics of a man in his 80s: things like cataracts, bad hearing, and loose, wrinkled skin. So when he’s taken in by nursing home caretaker Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), he fits right in with the other residents.

  
 
But there’s something different about Benjamin. As other residents grow older and die, Benjamin gets stronger. He trades his wheelchair for crutches before learning to walk on his own. And he starts to venture out into town, where he learns about grown-up things like women and booze.

Eventually, a younger, stronger Benjamin decides that it’s time to head out on his own—to take to the sea on a tugboat. But before he leaves, he promises to keep in touch with a beautiful little girl named Daisy, the granddaughter of one of the home’s residents. And no matter where he travels—or whom he meets—he never forgets about Daisy, his first and only true love.

With its fantastical story, its unusual main character, and its 165-minute runtime, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button could easily have been a monumental mess—but Fincher turned it into nothing short of a masterpiece. And although the story of a man who ages backward may sound a bit far-fetched, Fincher makes it feel almost natural.

Fortunately, Benjamin’s unusual circumstances aren’t the main focus of the story—because, if they had been, the movie would have gotten old almost as quickly as Benjamin himself does. Benjamin’s disorder is always there, in the background, but it’s downplayed—almost as if it’s really no big deal. It’s just a small part of what makes Benjamin so special. And though the role must have been extremely challenging, Pitt gives this lovably odd character the perfect mix of maturity and childlike wonder.

Benjamin Button is filled with all kinds of playfully entertaining adventures, as the young man in an old body sets out to see the world. It’s often surprisingly funny, too—thanks, especially, to one of Benjamin’s quirky housemates. But it all revolves around the strangely beautiful love story between Benjamin and Daisy (played as an adult by Cate Blanchett).

Though the runtime may seem daunting, this truly magical film will draw you in, and it won’t let go. It will make you laugh, but it might just make you cry, too. And it’s so captivating that it doesn’t feel long at all. In fact, I was so caught up in the story that I think I could have sat in the theater all night, watching the life of this fascinating character play out on the screen—and I would happily sit through it again. So if you have a few hours to spare this holiday season, head to the theater and buy yourself a ticket and a jumbo popcorn—because while this unforgettable film is super-sized, that just means that there’s more of it to love.


Blu-ray Review:
If you’ve ever wanted to know about every last detail of the filmmaking process, don’t miss the two-disc Criterion Collection Blu-ray release of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button—because the special features walk you through every step.

In addition to the usual trailers and galleries, the special features disc contains one massive making-of feature, which is broken up into four parts—which are then broken up even more, smaller parts. The First Trimester section takes viewers through the pre-production stages, which started with director Frank Oz, back in 1988. This feature discusses the various iterations of the script—and the various casting and director choices along the way. The Second Trimester section details the film’s production—the casting, the sets and locations, the makeup tests, the costume design, and the 140 days or so of filming. It shows the incredible attention to detail—right down to the choice of cameras. Then, the Third Trimester section goes into the post-production—the visual effects (which is divided into five different featurettes), as well as the sound design and score. And, finally, the Birth section shows the New Orleans benefit screening and offers a few closing thoughts from cast and crew members.

This is easily one of the most extensive releases I’ve ever seen. It took me four days to get through the features—the interviews, the behind-the-scenes footage, the sketches and galleries—yet I never lost interest (okay…maybe a little bit, during the part about selecting the cameras). It’s all fascinating stuff—and if you have any interest in the finer points of the filmmaking process, be sure to block off several hours of your time to go through these extras. Not only will you gain a whole new appreciation for the film, but you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time, thought, and effort (not to mention the blood, sweat, and tears) that goes into making a movie.

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