The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”
(Major spoilers ahead.) It's no wonder that this movie feels so much like Forrest Gump. It was written by the same screenwriter, Eric Roth, and began development in 1994. That long gestation period resulted in the film's biggest weakness, that every filmmaking team that got their hands on it over the years made changes, and it feels like a lot of the pieces don't fit with each other. Early chapters go into great detail about Benjamin's adventures in Russia, filling almost an entire act of the movie, then by the end, he goes to India, he brushes his teeth on a mountain, he rides his motorcycle, he comes home. That's it, in a matter of seconds? Somebody liked some chapters and didn't like others, and along the way the movie got uneven. It seems to run out of creative steam around the time Cate Blanchett shows up at his doorstep, with 40 minutes left to go but no more ideas about what to do with the time. And I won't even get into how the movie cheats us out of seeing what he should look like at the end of his life.
If this sounds like a negative review of what is actually a pretty good movie, it's because I'm disappointed that the movie came so close to greatness and missed it. The first two-thirds of the movie are so good that it was shaping up to be the best film of the year. It has a new spin on the lifelong love story. It's steeped in mannered New Orleans color. It has genuinely funny scenes like the unlucky faith healer. It has some beautiful (if too brief) ballet dancing. Brad Pitt and especially Cate Blanchett deliver good performances, him making Benjamin into more than a cipher, and she creating such a strong love interest that she seems like the lead while being in only half the movie. The makeup and CGI that makes them old, particularly hers in the hospital, is astonishing. Just when this movie was looking like something extraordinary, it creatively went on break and never really came back. I recommend the good movie that it is, but I regret not seeing the great movie that it could have been.