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A Depressing Dose of Deep Despair (a.k.a The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

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button A Depressing Dose of Deep Despair (a.k.a The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

Cry. Now.

In one of my earliest posts here in Loompaville, I stated that Brokeback Mountain was the single most depressing film I’d ever seen.

And it has valiantly held that title for several years.

Through I Am Legend’s cheap murder of the dog. It held up.

As I watched Mr. Plainview mentally destroy his adopted son in There Will Be Blood, the mountain-filled tale of ill-fated love reigned supreme.

Even as I finally rented Mystic River, and watched two families be ripped apart by a tragic misunderstanding, Brokeback refused to lose.

Until this afternoon. January 27, 2009. A date that will live in melancholy.
chainsaw+massacre A Depressing Dose of Deep Despair (a.k.a The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
The date I watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button do for tear-jerkers what The Texas Chainsaw Massacre did for horror.

The Oscar nominated film, directed by edgy filmmaker David Fincher, plods along at a sluggish pace and seems only interested in waking you when something terrible happens. And I don’t mean “ooh look at that train wreck” terrible. I’m speaking of “here, watch the person or animal you love most in this world die a slow death” terrible.

Fast facts about Button:
5–The number of times (at different points in the movie) Brad Pitt and his love interest Cate Blanchett say goodbye.

3–The number of parents we get to see die.

2–The number of children abandoned by their fathers.

1–The number of times I’ve had the opportunity to watch a woman hold the infant version of the man she loved most in the universe–as he died.

Button opens with Daisy’s (Cate Blanchett) daughter huddled by her deathbed telling her how much she’s going to miss her. We then quickly flashback to the death of Benjamin’s birth mother.

The next 15 minutes showing us Benjamin as an old man behaving like a toddler provides the only levity in the film. After that, when someone isn’t dying or leaving, the film grinds to a halt.
indian+slum A Depressing Dose of Deep Despair (a.k.a The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
We’re shown countless vistas of the world. They’re beautiful, but more at home on the Travel Channel than in this film. They feel forced down my throat, as if Benjamin wants to shake me by the shoulders until I realize how beautiful life and everything in it truly is. I only wish he could have visited Nazi Germany or present day Mumbai, India.

Even when not begging for a best cinematography Oscar, the movie slinks along with the urgency of an obese sleepwalker. Many times I found myself wishing I could fast forward through scenes and get on with the action. Brad Pitt is a handsome man, but if I had to watch anymore lengthy close ups of him being pensive, or lost in wonderment at the cyclical nature of life, I was going to drown myself in my gallon-sized Hi-C.

The acting is serviceable, but not what the Academy has made it out to be. Cate Blanchett looks very sultry in youth and very sad in old age. Yawn. There simply wasn’t much meat on Daisy’s character for her to sink her acting chops into. I wasn’t shocked she didn’t receive a nomination.

Brad Pitt is sedate, melancholy, and honestly, quite distant. He succeeds in delivering the few comedic lines in the film, highlighting where this movie wasted much of its potential. Brad Pitt’s acting genius, much like that of his manfriend George Clooney, shines through in comesean+penn+retard A Depressing Dose of Deep Despair (a.k.a The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) dies. Why he does so few of them I don’t know. I’ve read he’s envious of Leonardo DiCaprio’s film choices. But he shouldn’t be. Making people laugh is much, much, much, much more difficult than making them cry. Kill a dog. Give a mom or child a terminal disease. Whip up a teenage suicide. Have a love affair end in tragedy. Get Sean Penn to act retarded. The formula isn’t complicated.

But making an audience laugh for an hour and a half (see Tropic Thunder) or playing a half-witted physical trainer to goofy perfection (see Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading) requires immeasurable skill.

George and Brad should leave the uber-drama to DiCaprio and Day-Lewis, and use their own enormous gifts of comedic timing. I love Brad Pitt–but his nomination feels more like a thanks for all your great work nomination than something earned in Button.

(And an “it’s about time clap” to the Academy for nominating Robert Downey Jr. for best supporting actor in Tropic Thunder. Maybe if the Academy acknowledged the greatness of comedic acting a little more often, Brad Pitt would do more comedies and I wouldn’t be stitching up my wrists right now.)
taraji A Depressing Dose of Deep Despair (a.k.a The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Back to Button. The finest performance belonged to Taraji P. Henson, who was nominated for a best supporting actress for her role as Queenie, Benjamin’s mother. She is the only actor who pops off the screen and is still memorable after they’ve flooded New Orleans and you’ve snot-soaked your final tissue.

The script, adapted from the novel of the same name, was penned by Eric Roth. I wasn’t surprised to read he also wrote Forrest Gump. Button, which desperately wants to be Forrest Gump, is the exact inversion of Forrest Gump. Little charm. Fbizarro A Depressing Dose of Deep Despair (a.k.a The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) ew ancillary characters worth caring about. And far more loss than triumph.

Button is the Bizarro to Gump’s Superman.

Ultimately, the film is so desperate to make the audience feel true sadness, that it accomplishes very little in between tragedies. And at a run time of three hours, feels longer than Reagan and Princess Di’s funerals combined.

And I almost forgot.

Button ends as Katrina floods New Orleans.

Hooray.

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