Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pushes almost all the right buttons

Any idiot making a movie about a man who becomes younger in appearance as he grows older would know that casting Brad Pitt in the lead role is the only obvious option, if only because watching Brad Pitt age backwards is almost a religious experience. As the titular character in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Brad's transformation from wizened old man-child to smooth-faced Adonis is glorious to behold. Yes, his acting (which has improved significantly in recent years) is to be credited too, but more than anything this film reminds the world that Brad Pitt is one helluva gorgeous guy.

Now that I've wiped the drool off my chin, let's buckle down to business. I found the Hollywood adaptation of Benjamin Button engaging and enjoyable (what with the eye candy and all), but was a bit underwhelmed by the movie as a whole, given its slew of Golden Globe nominations and the pre-Oscar buzz it's generating. It didn't help that while watching,
I couldn't quite shake off the nagging thought that it was like Forrest Gump all over again: a protagonist who is "special", raised by a doting mother, sets off on a journey of self-discovery and in pursuit of the childhood sweetheart he never forgot. Granted, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his short story about Benjamin decades before Winston Groom finished his novel about Forrest (which makes me question Groom's originality), but the latter's film adaptation having had a 14-year headstart takes some of the novelty off the former's movie version.

Moreover, while I got teary-eyed several times throughout the movie, I never got to turn on the waterworks full blast. Even the most emotional moments seemed to lack that extra oomph to set me off (although a girl seated beside me in the theater had to bring out her Kleenex). Maybe it was the
the lack of a pivotal power scene, or the languid Southern drawls the actors were speaking in, but I was never really wowed at any point.

Nevertheless, I did appreciate the controlled and nuanced performances delivered by the cast, particularly by Taraji P. Henson, who's come a long way from playing the short-lived Whitney from Boston Legal. As Benjamin's adoptive mother, she exuded warmth minus the gooey sentimentality, spunk sans the sass, and strength without the overbearing manner both reel- and real-life moms tend to have. Brad, as I've mentioned, has grown as a thespian and proved it in this potentially award-winning turn as the odd-but-charming tragic hero, although he still occasionally slipped into a blandness that luckily for him can easily be overlooked, simply because he's so effing hot. And then there's the always magnificent Cate Blanchett, who is one of my favorite actresses because of her majestic onscreen presence. She was absolutely, startlingly beautiful as Benjamin's beloved Daisy (
mad props go to the brilliant makeup artists of this movie), and thanks to her naturally regal bearing and demeanor, Cate is thoroughly believable as a ballerina (props also go to the people behind the seamless editing for helping her pull it off). Cate also showed surprisingly good chemistry with Brad, so the romantic angle to the story was bolstered by it.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button may have fallen slightly short of my expectations, but I will give it this much distinction: it's been a while since I last saw a movie that made my chest tighten with sympathy pain, and perhaps even more than tears, that is testament to how much it moved me, and how effective it was as a love story. In that department at least, Benjamin gives Forrest a run for his money.


At Monday, January 19, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh! Mom saw this movie and said it was lovely! Can't wait to watch it as well~ :)


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