"THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON: CRITERION COLLECTION"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars) |
BLURAY EXPERIENCE: ***** (out of 5 stars)
Brad Pitt as BENJAMIN BUTTON
Cate Blanchett as DAISY
Taraji P. Henson as QUEENIE
Julia Ormond as CAROLINE
Jason Flemyng as THOMAS BUTTON
Elias Koteas as MONSIEUR GATEAU
Tilda Swinton as ELIZABETH ABBOTT
Directed by: David Fincher
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Nominated for thirteen Oscars, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is David Fincher’s latest film about a man who ages in reverse. Born an old man, Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) moves through life, getting younger by the day, experiencing life as no one else has. The film follows the life of Benjamin, who is the only person in the world whose youth is not wasted on the young. Through the years, Benjamin grows up, works on a tugboat, falls in love, moves on to a younger life and eventually sees the end of his days as an infant.
WHAT I LIKED
Revisiting “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” on home video has improved the film a bit in my eyes. After so much buzz surrounding the film preceding its release and culminating at its failed attempt to win the major Oscars, this film had a lot to live up to.
With a running time of 165, the movie is a bit long, and it breathes the way many of director David Fincher’s other films do. It is a brilliant looking movie, well deserving of its Academy Awards for Art Direction, Make-Up and Visual Effects. In fact, you cannot truly appreciate the visual effects without the lengthy documentary in the Criterion Collection that explains the painstaking process used in the film. To the unaided eye, the film doesn’t look effects-heavy. However, it is, and that’s a testament to how good the effects were.
The performances in this film were expertly done, which also comes to greater light after watching the behind-the-scenes material. Knowing how much visual manipulation was done with the character of Benjamin – and even the manipulation of vocal tracks for the character of Daisy as a child – one can appreciate the real feat of acting required to pull this off.
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a slow starter, and it never really speeds up into a thrilling film, save for one scene of war on the ocean. However, it’s not meant to be fast-paced or riveted with action.
The message of the film comes to greater prominence with the included documentary as the filmmakers explain their intentions. It’s a character study of two people whose paths cross fleetingly, and they will ultimately end up alone. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a cautionary tale for anyone who squanders their youth.
A fantastically made film – so much so that it really defines film as a work of art – “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” should be experienced even if it’s not entirely your cup of tea.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Each year at award season, Hollywood rolls out long-winded monstrosities that clock in at close to three hours. While I wouldn’t characterize “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” as a monstrosity, it was a bit too long in parts. Such is the case with David Fincher, whose films have gotten longer and longer with each release. As beautiful as “Benjamin Button” was to watch, it could have used a little faster pace.
Initially, I questioned how a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald could have resulted in such a long film. However, the explanation can be found in the supplemental documentary. And while I don’t buy the necessity of making the film as long as it was, I now understand where the filmmakers were coming from.
When I saw the Criterion Collection logo on the case of the BluRay, I was immediately excited. The Criterion Collection has a long, rich history of giving excellent home video experiences, and this comes across in the BluRay release of “Benjamin Button.”
The BluRay comes with two discs. The first includes the movie itself in glorious, stunning high definition. The film is in the top tier of movies that should be experienced in the BluRay format, with the digital transfer letting the movie play out with flawless precision. The film also comes with an audio commentary with David Fincher. The BluRay also allows the viewer to adjust and manipulate the bookmarks in the timeline of different scenes throughout the film.
The second disc of supplementals is not about volume of features but the richness of those materials. Several galleries are available to peruse, as well as the high definition trailers of the film.
However, the real gem of this release is the documentary “The Curious Birth of Benjamin Button,” which has a longer running time than the movie itself (and that’s saying something for this release). All aspects of the filmmaking process are revealed, from the decades-long development of the script to the groundbreaking visual and audio effects used to achieve the aging processes.
If you’re a student of film, in many ways this documentary is better than the movie. Where some releases would break this three-hour behind-the-scenes feature into multiple featurettes, the Criterion Collection weaves the entire process into a compelling and fascinating look at the modern filmmaking process.
Finally, in the sleeve you’ll find a short essay by film critic Kent Jones about the film.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fincher fans and award film buffs... and anyone who loves a good Criterion Collection release.