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 David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button!!

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button!!   Fri Feb 06, 2009 10:06 pm

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in 1921, and it first appeared in Colliers Magazine, and would appear a year later in his book Tales of the Jazz Age. Which tells the story of a man born in 1860, with all the physical appearances of a 70 year old, about how he tried to enrol at Yale University, and would marry the daughter of a Civil War general, by the name of Hildegarde, and would eventually retire to Italy. Even though the story was met with indifference at the time, with one angry reader of Colliers Magazine writing to Fitzgerald at the time saying "Sir, I have read the story Benjamin Button in Collier's and I wish to say that as a short story writer you would make a good lunatic I have seen many pieces of cheese in my life but of all the pieces of cheese I have ever seen you are the biggest piece. I hate to waste a piece of stationary on you but I will." Despite this, Hollywood would rediscover the story half a century after it's publication. Film mogul Ray Stark spent years trying to get a film version of the ground, but to no avail. It went from director to director, Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg and Spike Jonze. But, one director who was always interested in the project was David Fincher. He heard about the project in 1992, still licking his wounds after the hardship of getting Alien³ made. He followed the project for years, and in 2004, he was signed up to do it and Zodiac at the same time!! But, whilst Zodiac was a dark, brooding looking into obsession, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the other end of the spectrum, but it is very sweet and surreal love story, but like Fincher's other work, it focuses on death, (a theme alot of his other films touch upon), only this time, this film is. well and truly, his masterpiece!!

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button begins with the death of a woman, Daisy (Cate Blanchett), on her death bed on the horrible morning of Monday, August 29th 2005, just when Hurricane Katrina was approaching New Orleans, Louisiana. As she slowly slips away, she asks her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) to read from the diary of a man she knew throughout her life, called Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). Who was born on the night of November 11th 1918, just as the people of New Orleans were celebrating the end of World War I. Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng), comes home to find his wife died during childbirth, and his child looks severely deformed, although he has all the physical features of a man in his mid-80's. He abandons the baby at a Nursing home, he is discovered by a couple who work at the nursing home, Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) and Tizzy (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) discover the baby, and take him in. Although Tizzy is scornful of this, Queenie becomes a mother to baby Benjamin, as he grows older, he becomes younger in age. In 1930, he meets Daisy for the first time, he gets a job down on the tug boats, working under Captain Mike Clock (Jared Harris). During the late 1930's, he goes out to see with Captain Mike and his crew on board the Chelsea tug. They end up in Russia, where Benjamin has a clandestine affair with Elizabeth Abbott (Tilda Swinton). the wife of a spy, but Daisy is never far from his mind, who is training to be a dancer in New York. They meet up again several times over the years, and although it is never a proper relationship, (marred by the knowledge that one is getting older and one is getting younger), they still remain close.

It was a risk to make this film, it was in production since 2004, (with shooting starting in late 2006), and the technology used to make it work was still unperfected, and what Fincher had in mind for this film seemed like to many as an impossible request. But, he was determined to make it work, he would not stop until he KNEW it looked perfect. Has he succeeded?? Yes, he has, and the result is probabily his best film. Although Fincher is known for darker films such as Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac, he wanted to make a change with this one. Every director who normally makes one type of film is entitled to a change every now and again, and he does it with Benjamin Button. You'd never have guessed he would have it in him to make such an emotionally charged and ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL looking film as this. Gone are the dark tones and adult overtones. He's make something a hell of a lot more commercial with this one. To those who may have believed he's "sold-out to Hollywood" with this one, so what?? It was inevitable that he would make a film like this, even if it's ever only gonna be the once. If you've seen the music videos and commercials that he's directed over the years, you must have got some inkling that change would happen sooner or later.

It is a truly brilliant cinematic achievement, it captures the times it's set in beautifully, they filmed in New Orleans a year after Katrina had hit, and they still make the city look grand and majestic as it has always been. Fincher filmed it digitally, and it gives better attention to detail and colour, (especially as Button gets younger and younger), much kudos goes to cinematographer Claudio Miranda, who started out as a gaffer under Fincher, before rising through the ranks to here, and he makes the film look simply splendid. The score by French composer Alexandre Desplat, who knows how to tug at emotions with the music, which comes in at the right times. But, the biggest weapon in the film's arsenal, is the CGI by Digital Domain. What Fincher had in mind was to have Brad play Benjamin Button from 1918 until late into his life, after which, younger actors would take over. From 1918 until 1936, this would require Brad's face to be digitally put over the faces of the doubles they would use, and not only that, they would make photo-realistically make him LOOK old, with little use for make-up. It did indeed seem nearly impossible to achieve, (one of the reasons we've been waiting so long for it to come is for Digital Domain to convincingly match up Brad's facial features and acting to the doubles, and make the age in the face look real). They've succeeded, and they alot did well, with making New Orleans look just like it was during the Jazz Age.

Cast wise, Fincher always had Brad Pitt in mind for the role of Benjamin Button, and this is the role of a lifetime, literally!! But, Pitt's Button is a man, born into the world confused at why he is the way he is, but he comes to accept it. And he's a right old charmer as well!! With a southern drawl and calm optimism as he knows he won't have long left for this world, Pitt conveys with aplomb and charm. Blanchett looks beautiful in this film, even as an old lady!! Shocked But, she is very convincing as she plays Daisy from 1938 until 2005, not many actresses could do that, but Blanchett does, and she goes from a beautiful young dancer to a grand old belle of the South throughout the film, and she's wonderful to watch. Supporting roles are just as good. The standout is Taraji P. Henson as Benjamin's adoptive mother Queenie, who plays a character for nearly 5 years, and it's one of strong emotional gravitas, as this is the one person who takes Benjamin in when probabily no-one else will. Jason Flemyng has always been an underrated actor, and it's good to see him as Benjamin's father, Thomas. Who watches him grow over the years, and becomes friends with him, although Benjamin doesn't know who he is for years. Tilda Swinton makes a friendly cameo as Elizabeth Abbott, whose brief relationship is emotional and sweet, it's a pity her appearance is all but fleeting. Another standout is Jared Harris as the Irish toned Captain Mike, who brings a dry humour and sage wisdom to the proceedings as Benjamin's employer for a decade on the high seas. It's such a good ensemble, and there's alot of interesting characters within the film, including the people of the nursing home who come and go over the years, (including Mr. Daws (Ted Manson) who has been struck by lightning seven times. Razz)

Even for a film as emotionally charged as Benjamin Button, it has an excellent script by Eric Roth, (who wrote the screenplays for Forrest Gump and The Good Shepherd). It is a brilliant story told with romance that isn't overly sentimental, dialogue that isn't cliqued and a good sense of humour that isn't in your face. (Including the run-up to a fatal accident in Paris told in a humourous flashback.) But, Fincher does brilliantly with this film, he gets the best performance out of Brad Pitt, (best of the 3 they've done), Blanchett has never been better, and everything down to the production design, costumes and music are all done to perfection and it is a perfect film. Fincher won't release stuff until he knows it's ready, this one was well worth the wait, and you'll be in awe of what he has achieved on emotional, visual and artistic levels with Benjamin Button.



This is a film you HAVE to see, no excuses, don't miss it. If you're thinking about seeing something else, don't. The other thing you may want to see will have to wait, this is the one you have to go and see. It's rare that a film comes along that touches you on so many levels, this is THAT film. It's got an emotional punch that hits you hard that alot of other films don't have, it's visual awe will blow you away, and while it's thought-provoking with it's take on life and death, it is sheer bliss to live through for a good 2 hours and a half or more. David Fincher is a true cinematic legend, he never makes bad films, (even Alien³, flawed as it is, has it's moments of greatness.) It tells of a weird and wonderful life, done in reverse, from an old man to being young. We never know how long we've got in life, but it's best to make the most of whatever we have at the moment. Our lives are all ruled by time, it'll never stop, life will never stop, even after we die, life and time still go on forever. It should make you feel better about life and the inevitability of death. To phrase one quote from the film, "You never know what's coming for you." How true indeed. Smile
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