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The Essential Guide to Bristol
12 February 2009
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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (12A)

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Review byMatthew Turner06/02/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 167 mins

Enjoyable, engaging and beautifully made drama with stunning special effects and terrific performances from Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.

What's it all about?
Directed by David Fincher and based on a 1921 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button begins in a hospital in New Orleans, with Hurricane Katrina poised to hit outside, as a dying woman (Cate Blanchett in heavy prosthetic make-up) asks her daughter (Julia Ormond) to read from the diary of a man named Benjamin Button. Benjamin's story begins in 1918, when he's born looking like a tiny 85-year-old man. His father (Jason Flemyng), distraught over the baby's appearance and the fact that his wife died in childbirth, leaves Benjamin on the steps of an old people's home run by Queenie (Taraji P Henson).

As Benjamin (Brad Pitt) grows older, he begins to look and feel younger and younger and soon he realises that he's aging backwards. He undergoes the usual life experiences - first love with a married woman in Murmansk (Tilda Swinton), a job on a tug boat with a salty sea captain (Jared Harris) - but he never forgets his childhood sweetheart Daisy (Elle Fanning, then Madisen Beaty, then Blanchett) and the day is fast approaching when they will be the same age.

The Good
Essentially, this is Fincher's Forrest Gump (it even has the same scriptwriter), with Benjamin cast as a largely passive observer of twentieth century America. The performances are terrific, with Pitt deservedly receiving an Oscar nomination for his immensely likeable portrayal, even if Benjamin doesn't actually do very much.

If you had to bet on which of the film's 13 nominations would result in Oscars, you'd have to go for visual effects, because they're nothing short of extraordinary. The shots of a shorter, prune-faced Brad are one thing, but when he's suddenly a young man, you'd swear Fincher was using out-takes from Thelma & Louise.

The Great
The film definitely has its flaws (the stereotyping is often embarrassing, the overall message is oddly unsatisfying) but there's something undeniably compelling and original about the central love story and the film is packed with delightful moments. It also looks stunning throughout, courtesy of Claudio Miranda's cinematography.

Worth seeing?
Despite its flaws, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a beautifully made, superbly acted and ultimately moving drama with state of the art special effects. Recommended.

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (12A)
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