Thursday, January 22, 2009

Good reasons not to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

I was going to entitle this entry: "Why you shouldn't see 'the curious case of benjamin button'"; however I thought this might have the effect of reverse psychology and actually prompt some people to waste their money on this oscar-self-conscious flick.

Perhaps the most concise and convincing reason not to see the film is that it has the same screen writer as Forrest Gump. Indeed, the film falls into the same formula of "extraordinary things happening to an ordinary person".

Benjamin Button himself remains a rather unformed character throughout the film. Brad Pitt tries to give an Oscar-worthy performance simply by saying all his lines slowly and quietly, hoping that special effects and make-up will do the rest. Apart from his prediliction of ageing in reverse, there is indeed little of note or interest or development of Benjamin Button.

We see this in so many Oscar-nominated films: an aspect of a character's life such as their "genius", their good luck, their supernatural power or the famous historical events that happen to them usurp any development or personality of the character. The character becomes a passive "blank slate" on which to paint hyperbolous, cliched, ultimately empty situations and events.

Everything about this film seems cycnically geared to the Oscar season. The actors either try too hard, or, in the case of Pitt, try too hard not to try too hard. The special effect budget was obviously huge, but the effects are used in such an underlined way that they distance the viewer emotionally instead of engaging them.

It is possible to use a supernatural gimmick to explore a complex theme with some profundity - you can even (or especially) do it in a comedy, as "Groundhog Day" demonstrated. Off course, the Oscar season avoids comedies like the plague and instead goes for the self-consciously serious - just the sort of film "Button" is.

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