UNN Movie Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


Okay, the Academy Awards are in two hours and some odd change, let’s see if I can knock out these movie reviews quick fast and in a hurry.

Up on the docket first is “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

Honest opinion, this past fall, especially this winter fell short on decent movies I wanted to go see. This was a movie that uppity Negress had somewhat dragged me to see over Christmas break (and yes, I’ve been meaning to do a blog since then).  We sat in the movie theater and I was secretly wishing that she hadn’t gone to see the Adam Sandler movie  “Bedtime Stories” because that’s what I would have liked to have gone to see given the dearth of decent Christmas movies.

taraji-p-henson6Let me preface this review by saying that I was more than excited to hear all of the buzz surrounding the movie because of 2009 Academy Award Nominee Taraji P. Henson, who I’m nominating for a 2009 Uppity Award.  It was nice to see her move from being a “black actor” to somewhat move into the more mainstream eyes of the rest of the country’s movie goers.  You see, most of us had already been more than familiar with her in the black cult classics of “Baby Boy” opposite Tyrese Gibson and from being in “Hustle and Flow” (a movie I still haven’t seen) opposite Terrence Howard.  However, for me personally, she had placed another jewel in her feature film crown when she starred as Pam, the wife of Tyler Perry’s character in “A Family That Preys.”  Granted that was a “black film,” but for me, I was quite clear that she had moved passed the roles of the ghetto girl in the movies.

So, because of my following Ms. Henson, I had actually read a review on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”  I’m not even sure who wrote the review and how long it was, and what paper it was or what online source it was, all I remember reading was that the movement of the film was dependent upon Brad Pitt’s character, Benjamin Button, being born old and getting younger as life went along–and that motif didn’t work.

It was with that aforementioned thought in my head that I sat down for this 166 minute film.  And it is a list of problems as to how I’ll describe this film.

Problem #1: I just don’t do well with historical fiction.  Perhaps I’ve been jaded ever since I was doing a senior African American history paper on Nat Turner and I stumbled upon William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner which was written by a white guy and published in 1967 and just how much uproar was started as a result of a white guy telling black history.  So, once I got past the mother’s try-to-be Creole accent laying up in the bed, with the specter of Hurricane Katrina and tried to figure out what was going on and realized the movie opened up in 1925 (?) New Orleans.  Now I’m not an expert on New Orleans culture, but seeing as how I did live there for three years, my dad is from Louisiana and I do read a lot and soak in a lot, I figured I was miles ahead of the folk who still can’t properly pronounce this words like Atchafalaya and Tchoupitoulous.

I was mildly concerned as to how they were going to portray the black lady raising the white boy, particularly in the South.  It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I guess the writers and what not got away with that simply because they were in a senior home.  I felt that the early actor of Button, Peter Badalamenti II, did a good job of portraying Button figuring out his body and trying make everything work.  But then again, I had problems with the historicity of the movie when the Pygmy, played by Rampai Mohadi befriends Button and the two hop on a street car together–and sit at the front.

Um, we all know they would have been at the back of the car.  

Moreover, this was easy historical fact to get easy.  This wasn’t small fudging, perhaps stuff like this really isn’t general knowledge like I thought.

Problem #2: The movie just flat out had parts that didn’t make sense.  One of the criticisms I’ve had of Tyler Perry movies was that I wasn’t sure if I was watching comedy’s or dramas.  “A Family That Preys” was a movie that seemed to nail it on that aspect.  By in large a Tyler Perry movie would have you high and lifted up with great comedy in one seen, and then gripping drama in the next.  As a result of that, the drama comes off as melodrama worthy of Tom Joyner’s “It’s Your World” where all you need is the funky drawbar organ music playing in the background.

I felt this was the case with homeboy who had been struck by lightning seven times.  This was particularly in the light of gripping dramatic scenes such as where Daisy’s daughter, Caroline discovers by reading this journal, on her mother’s deathbed, with Katrina coming on shore, that this crazy old man was her father, or the various vignette that lead to Daisy’s life-altering injury, we could always count on homeboy getting struck by lightning and it definitely being a non-sequitur to the movie.

Also, the biggest glaring error was the opening scene with the clockmaker.  Not ONE shred of evidence connected the clock to Benjamin Button throughout the entire movie.  The opening scene is that of a clockmaker who’s lost his son in World War I and he designs a clock for New Orleans’ Union Station (which has not existed in some years) and when it was revealed even with Teddy Roosevelt present, it was designed to run backwards, in hopes of turning back time so he could see his son again.  Then there’s a cut to the birth of Benjamin Button.  The closing scenes of the movie show the clock has been replaced by a digital forward moving clock and that the old clock itself was sitting on the floor of some storage room that was quickly filling with water as the levees broke.

Seriously, this was a theme that completely didn’t work at all.  No one dealt with the theme of the clockmaker designing some master clock to run backwards and the significance of this clock.  This particular blunder made the motif of Button going through life aging backwards not work well.

Problem #3: The main catalyst of the movie didn’t work.  Had this been a simple love story, I guess on the level of “The Notebook” people would have said this was done before and no one would have given this movie a second look.  So the writers and producers decided to throw a twist into it, and there you have “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”  See, I just don’t buyt the feasibility of it all.  The movie never gave me right mixture of fact and fiction that made me want to make the leap of faith of this being reality that this man went through life as simply a novelty.  I’m just convinced that he would have been locked up somewhere where doctors were running tests on him constantly.  I just never got the impression that he would have went through life unscathed by the medical community as such or that no one that he came in contact with wouldn’t have told someone!

Then after the movie had done a good job with the love interest Daisy, Cate Blanchett, it still dropped the ball on the later scenes of the movie as Benjamin regressed back into a baby.  Yes, as unimaginable as it sounds, think about an old baby being born and a new baby dying.

The time line of Benjamin Button had him being born with arthritis and all kinds of octogenarian health problems–at the size of newborn.  Then growing bigger, but growing progressively better as he got older–but yet younger.  So, apparently in the 1960s when he had cut out on his wife–and daughter–he reappeared as an 18 year old (kudos to the makeup team for making 40 year old Brad Pitt look half his age almost) and from then on, not only got older, but got younger–and smaller.  I mean we essentially watched a 90 second vignette toward the end of the movie watching a 70 year old man trapped in a seven year old body–but with the comprehension of a seven year old.  It was as if he were living his life backwards–again.

I was done with the movie by that point.

If you like love stories, perhaps you’ll do okay with it, but clearly I wasn’t a big fan.  This is definitely not a movie I’d recommend to be in one’s DVD collection, perhaps rent if you’re a female and you just like Brad Pitt that much, or if you want to support Taraji P. Henson, otherwise this movie was a bust to me.

Any user comments and quick reviews from others who happened to see the movie?

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

5 thoughts on “UNN Movie Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

  1. I thought the movie was good, but too long. I agree there were parts that made no sense, and at which point I started to doze off. It had a very Forrest Gump feel to it; a retrospective of life type of thing. All in all, I’m glad I saw it, but definitely not one of those movies to watch over and over again!

  2. the blind man stated that he had hopes that one day his clock would return the life back to people lost in war..benjamin button was born the day the great war ended..

    1. @brooke

      Correct. However, Benjamin Button wasn’t lost in the war. Now if someone elses spirit really embodied the body of Button, then the directors, producers and writers did a HORRIBLE job of conveying that meesage.

  3. Come on once again, college man, spare us the ungrammatical “me and her” instead of the proper “she and I” used in the Nominative Case as a subject of a clause in a sentence. (High School grammar class 202). You know I would never do this except that you call yourself ” ‘Uppity’ Negro”, and everyone knows that Uppityness requires standard English. I also know that you have excellent control of the language as shown in so much of your excellently written work. Just saying “Stay on top of your game!” “Check your work!” Said from a former English teacher. Still . . . “Love ya’!”

    You wrote: “My mother is convinced, and probably right, that when me and her were coming back from a funeral in Mississippi and had stopped at a Holiday Inn in downtown Memphis that we probably received better treatment and the discount simply because we still had on our dress clothes from earlier that day.”

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