Published Dec 25, 2008David Fincher tackles another ambitious project many once considered un-filmable with this adaptation of an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story concerning a man with the features (and ailments) of an 80-year-old who ages backwards throughout his life. It's too bad that his life doesn't turn out to be more interesting.
Employing a host of CGI technology, Brad Pitt acts (on the body of smaller actors) throughout the film and his performance, as well as the technical achievement, are a wonder. But from childhood, Button never seems to suffer great complications from his affliction, aside from loneliness, though he finds companionship in his one true love, Daisy (Cate Blanchett).
"I'm younger than I look" is his mantra and explanation and of course, by the time he hits his 30s and looks like Brad Pitt, Benjamin Button's life is hardly a burden at all. The story is all about the timeless love of Daisy and Benjamin - its framing device is Daisy in a hospital bed being read Benjamin's diary by her daughter (Julia Ormond) during Hurrican Katrina (to add drama? Who knows) - and naturally their romance and the film hit a "sweet spot" when she's old enough and he's young enough looking for them to build a life together. But there's a strong whiff of Forrest Gump about the film - indeed, it was adapted by Gump screenwriter Eric Roth - and not in a good way.
It's the sort of production one describes as "handsomely mounted"; its technical and visual elements are top-notch, as one would expect from a director like Fincher. But at a running time nearing three hours, it feels occasionally like Button is aging in real time, with little more than a "galdarnit, I'm aging backwards!"
Certainly some of the early acclaim the film has received is due to the overriding sense that it couldn't be done but technical issues aside, it could have been done in half the time and with a little less self-serving gravitas. (Paramount)