14 January 2009

The curious case of 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'

Photography, direction, art direction, special effects: 'crafted' to within an inch of its life. CGI will do a lot, but it is no replacement for creative makeup and a solid performance. Which is not to say that the makeup is not astonishing in places. The aged Cate Blanchett is completely convincing, but the attempt to make a forty year old actress appear twenty by Photoshopping out the wrinkles in real time makes her face look like a mask.

The film is deeply unsatisfying in the end. Every emotional point is flagged, so it doesn't give the audience's imagination anywhere else to go. And the character of Benjamin gets emptier and more irritating longer the film goes on, which is very long indeed. I knew the film was too long because errant thoughts kept popping into my head. Like, does anyone else notice how the old Benjamin looks exactly like an aged Robert Redford?

Brad Pitt, an actor I like, simply doesn't have enough to do. His requirements amount to standing around looking gormless. If someone had said "Life is like a box of chocolates", I wouldn't have been in the least surprised. I suppose it's no accident, as the film has the same scriptwriter as 'Forrest Gump'.

I'm most disappointed by the fact that a film which put all sorts of thoughts into my mind about mortality, death, time, memory, how much I miss friends who are gone, simply didn't deserve the emotional attention it wrought from me. I resented the film for that.

And now, predictably, there are Oscar nominations in the offing, including Best Picture. It just goes to show (switching to Grumpy Old Man mode) how low critics' expectations can be, and even more depressing, how apparently low is the standard of film culture at present.

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