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Benjamin Button: Forest Gump 2?

February 3, 2009

I want to start by saying that I don’t hate Benjamin Button even though it’s probably going to sound that way. It’s important to know that I went into this film expecting greatness for a variety of reasons: 13 Oscar nominations, Brad Pitt, the concept of a man aging backwards having all sorts of unique possibilities, and finally, director David Fincher is very accomplished (Zodiac, Fight Club, Se7en). I guess anything less than spectacular was going to be a disappointment for me.

The biggest problem I had throughout Benjamin Button is that I kept drawing comparisons to Forrest Gump and thinking about how much better that film executed everything. We have all sorts of familiar elements: our protagonists overcomes physical defects (mentally handicapped vs. aging backwards, Forest breaking out of his braces vs. Benjamin getting out of his wheelchair), we have extended periods of time spent at sea, we have a love interest that flutters in and out of a story that extends over decades, we have mother figures that perish, we have cooky side characters, and we have a long ass running time.

Forrest Gump was just a much, MUCH better film and I couldn’t ignore the fact that I kept thinking about it while watching Benjamin Button. Forrest Gump came out 15 years ago and I still remember Jenny, Bubba, and Lt. Dan as if that film came out yesterday; I can’t remember the name of the love interest or the sea captain in Benjamin Button and I saw that movie a week ago… and I think that’s really at the root of why this movie disappointed me. Outside of Benjamin, I just didn’t care about any of the other characters; and that’s a big problem, especially since the love story is at the emotional center of this movie. I only discovered this past week that Eric Roth, who wrote the screenplay, also wrote Forrest Gump. That gave me a good chuckle when I found that out.

The pacing of the film was also problematic since it has a really long running time. I couldn’t help but look at my cell phone and think that it was moving backwards because the movie was so slow. I think with a shorter run time and a focus on actually developing the characters, would have made Benjamin Button a more pleasurable experience.

I don’t want to give the impression that the film is a total disaster, it does several things well. Brad Pitt gives a very good performance as the main character, though I’m not convinced it’s his best work ever. Also, the cinematography, art direction, make-up, and costumes are all award worthy.

So yes, Benjamin Button is a respectable, if not good, film. The Forrest Gump similarities and poor pacing ruined the experience for me, but I can imagine that plenty of people will still thoroughly enjoy it. I’m just saddened by the fact that David Fincher is receiving all this recognition for this movie, when he’s made plenty of much better films in the past and I definitely don’t think it’s 2008’s critical darling. It’s quite possible that I’m being overly harsh on this movie because of all the hype surrounding, but I can’t deny the fact that I left the theater disappointed.

Score: 6 out of 10 (Recommended)

One comment

  1. I will comment! I’m so glad to see you writing again. You are such a good writer and have so much to say. Keep up the good work!



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