Film Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

5 Feb

Oscar buzz is a funny thing. It can bolster the reputation of already well received films while occasionally offering smaller pictures a shot at public awareness that they perhaps missed first time around.

This week’s UK release of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button comes after mixed US reviews that still leave many potential viewers over here unsure of exactly what to expect.

Having recently watched the film in its near three hour entirety I’d say I’m still not entirely sure what the film is about and have no real desire to find out.

The film opens in a present day New Orleans hospital ward where Daisy (Cate Blanchett) is on her deathbed. Daisy’s daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) comes to be with her mother and is told to read the diary of  Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) who was born an old man and grew younger with every passing day.

I’m no stranger to fantasy and science fiction films, my DVD collection a mixture of imaginative celluloid offerings that stretch the imagination far and wide. While that doesn’t make me an expert in the field, I like to think I have an open mind on anything “a bit odd”, a category Benjamin Button certainly falls into.

My problem with Benjamin Button stems from the fact that the film doesn’t attempt to give any explanation for the character’s condition, failing in the first instance to make it clear whether he exists thanks to some kind of magic or whether it’s a medical condition. Events centring around a certain clock make me think the former, but the lack of effort on the film’s makers to explain this is a bit of a let down.

Still, a bit of obfuscation from your entertainment shouldn’t be enough to leave you cold. Sadly the problem is compounded with the fact that Button living “backwards” has no real point to it. He’s a simple enough man who wanders through life not doing much and never having much fun in the process.

Waiting for something momentous to happen was pointless: it never did. Love drifted into Button’s life, but quite why anyone should care is a mystery, his love interest simply uninteresting. Brad Pitt walks through the film with no energy or life to him, an actor going through the paces in something he knows will bag him an Oscar nomination.

In its defence the film looks amazing, CGI used effectively to recreate the past. Costume design is also impressive, giving the film a beautiful gloss that partly makes up for the time spent viewing it.

Out of all the Oscar nominated films this season I suspect this one will do the best because of that buzz I mentioned earlier. It really doesn’t deserve it.

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