Back From the Cone of Silence; Some Quick Thoughts on Benjamin Button

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Well, it’s 2009.  Another great year ahead.  My holidays were spent back in Ontario with family and friends, and a great time was had by all.  It was good to get away from the hubbub for a couple weeks.

Now, as for the business of this blog, I’m pleased to announce that I’ll soon be posting a tentative Best of the Year list, with some comments thrown in taking a look back at the film year of 2008.  There are still loads of titles I need to catch up on, which will take months, but I’m confident in naming some of the films that impressed me the most.

Lastly, I want to say a few words about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which I saw this past weekend.  It’s a beautiful film, and a rather beautiful tale.  It’s been awhile since I enjoyed a film that functions so well as an in-depth, observant story.  Both Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett give magnificently understated performances, and their supporting cast rings true in each and every case.  The film’s technical crafting is flawless, from the golden-brown tinged cinematography to Alexandre Desplat’s simply moving score.  It’s a wonderful film…

You knew there was a “but” in here somewhere.  Benjamin Button is just about flawless until its final moments, which drop off coldly and deny the audience any kind of satisfactory climax, or catharsis, or anything really.  It’s jarring and a let-down, which may be the point, but I think it kind of cheapens the overall build-up the film generates over the course of its lengthy running time.  It takes time throughout its body to make insights into life, death, the passage of time; most of which are movingly and poignantly stated.  I find it frustrating that a film that, while not bracingly sentimental, is easily the warmest and most beautiful piece of film that David Fincher has ever crafted, drops off ambiguously without any kind of resolution for characters we have come to know and involved with.  Assumptions are rampant, but that’s not enough.  The film successfully drew me into its world, its characters, its story, its everything.  And then it left me at the side of the road, shaking my head, trying to figure out where it threw me off the bus.

Benjamin Button is an exquisitely crafted work of art.  It deserved a conclusion more fitting of that reality.

Because of the strength of its initial 160 minutes or so, I’m going to say it’s still one of the best of 2008.  But this is a key example of how a poor ending, or even just a so-so one can negatively impact an entire feature film.

Stay tuned…

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