Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Most Oscar-Nominated Flick of the Year Arrives on DVD

Very loosely-based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 14-page short story of the same name, this melancholy meditation on love, mortality and loneliness revolves around a baby (Brad Pitt) born old who grows younger over the course of his life. Brought to the screen by director David Fincher who interpreted the tale as an elaborate parable of Biblical proportions, the movie landed 13 Academy Award nominations, although it only won a trio of Oscars in minor categories.
The film opens in New Orleans at the end of the First World War where we find Benjamin’s mother (Joeanna Sayler) dying during childbirth being followed by his father’s (Jason Flemyng) wrapping the inexplicably-aged infant in swaddling clothes and secretly depositing him on the back steps of the local old folks’ home. Fortunately, he is immediately adopted by Miss Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), a selfless, mammy-like figure who altruistically decides to care for him the best she can.
Although her odd-looking, little octogenarian is initially beset by an assortment of infirmities, Queenie can’t help but notice that there is something which sets Benjamin apart from the rest of the residents at her assisted living facility. For, while they continue to deteriorate and die, he miraculously has his vitality restored, and gradually gets back his hearing, eyesight, hair, and so forth.
Eventually, Benjamin not only feels fairly spry, but independent enough to bid Queenie and company adieu and sets out to explore the world on his own. And with an uncanny sense of timing rather reminiscent of a Forrest Gump, he proceeds to embark on an epic journey which lands him in the middle of a number of events of historical import over the ensuing decades, such as a World War II naval battle and a NASA rocket launch.
The similarities to Gump can be easily explained by the fact that Eric Roth wrote the script for both movies. Nonetheless, Button’s reverse aging theme is unique, allowing for a sufficiently novel plotline which proves compelling when you factor in Fincher’s extraordinary special effects and the Oscar-nominated performances of Brad Pitt and Taraji Henson.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, smoking and brief war violence.
Running time: 167 minutes
Studio: The Criterion Collection/Paramount Home Entertainment
2-Disc DVD Extras: Director’s commentary, a 4-part “Behind-the-Scenes” documentary, photo gallery, trailers and more.

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