Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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My name is Benjamin. Benjamin Button. And I was born under unusual circumstances. How is a man, who ages in reverse, born? How does he die? It got me curious so I watched the film. I must warn you that it was almost three hours long and had nothing much interesting to offer other than a glimpse of how Cate Blanchett would look like in twenty years and Brad Pitt aging backwards.

One might wonder why a short story adaptation should be so long when novels adapted into film would fit in just two hours. As for me, I had no problem with the length. I think seeing someone age backwards and reflect on its consequences is interesting enough to keep me watching. In fact, the story would have been just any other biopic except that the character ages backwards. But Benjamin has his own interesting story to tell and you just could not help but get engrossed in it. It is that what-if-human-beings-do-age-backwards factor.

In terms of acting, I have no complaints. I think this is a well-acted film. Brad Pitt was okay. I think the Oscar nomination is already the win. Same case for Cate Blanchett. They played their respective roles well enough to be believable, given the fact that they had to play the same roles in various stages of their young and adult lives. Tilda Swinton had a special appearance, short but sweet. I loved how her character suddenly disappeared and was given proper closure by the near end of the movie. Taraji Henson is nominated for an Oscar supporting role though I do not see why but it is okay. She was fun to watch and she did her role well.

I would have to praise the make up artists. I have never seen such credible make up since Click. It really helped make the actors' roles more believable. Cate Blanchett as a young woman was so stunning you would want to believe she belonged in the era of classic Hollywood. Brad Pitt as a teenager would have easily been cast in Gossip Girl or 90210 and no one would have complained. As old people, they were also convincing and there were no traces of make up nor prosthetic at all. It was like being given a glimpse of how they would really look like in the future.

Although the movie was long I have to say that it was enjoyable, at least for me. It is not a generalization. There were a couple of funny scenes, dialogues, and anecdotes that come out once in a while such as the infamous Did I ever tell you I was struck by lightning seven times? There were also a lot of quotable quotes and life lessons like having to lose someone we love because otherwise we would not know how important they are to us. The film might be boring to some extent and perhaps to some, preachy, but it is certain as to what message it wants to convey.

If you thought getting older sucks, then this film tells you that getting younger is much more complicated. In a way, it is an unexpected eye-opener telling you that life, regardless if it goes forward or backward, does go on. One is never too old or in the case of Benjamin, too young to pursue what s/he wants to do in life. Do not use your age as an excuse for your incompetence or lack of will to do something you want or like to do. Just do it.

If I do not see Slumdog Millionaire before Oscar night then I would have to root for this movie for Best Picture. Sure, it has that same Forrest Gump feel-good effect but I could not discount the fact that the people behind this film did an awesome job. Some people might not agree but for me it is a masterpiece worthy of recognition. And if you look closely the movie is actually a tragedy to begin with so to dismiss it as a feel-good flick is to fail to see it for what it really is.

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