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Generally favorable reviews - based on 37 Critics What's this?

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7.2

Generally favorable reviews- based on 492 Ratings

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  • Summary: “I was born under unusual circumstances.” And so begins The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, adapted from the 1920s story by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a man who is born in his eighties and ages backwards: a man, like any of us, who is unable to stop time. We follow his story, set in New“I was born under unusual circumstances.” And so begins The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, adapted from the 1920s story by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a man who is born in his eighties and ages backwards: a man, like any of us, who is unable to stop time. We follow his story, set in New Orleans from the end of World War I in 1918, into the 21st century, following his journey that is as unusual as any man’s life can be. Benjamin Button is a grand tale of a not-so-ordinary man and the people and places he discovers along the way, the loves he finds, the joys of life and the sadness of death, and what lasts beyond time. (Paramount Pictures) Expand
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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 26 out of 37
  2. Negative: 1 out of 37
  1. Superbly made and winningly acted by Brad Pitt in his most impressive outing to date.
  2. Benjamin Button is all of a visionary piece, and it's a soul-filling vision.
  3. With his usual intelligence, technical virtuosity (the reverse-aging effects are astounding) and storytelling panache, director Fincher gives the film a power and unity that make nearly three hours go by in a flash and pulls its diverse elements together to be something unique for a Hollywood movie -- a true spiritual experience.
  4. Reviewed by: Jason Buchanan
    75
    Brimming with intriguing concepts and brilliant visual effects, making it a stimulating treat for both the eyes and the intellect.
  5. Yet it's worth seeing because the sights are truly something. Claudio Miranda's pearly cinematography, Donald Graham Burt's luscious production design, the visual effects supervised by Eric Barba--everything blends, and none of the seams show.
  6. Attains a level of quiet grace. It's too bad that I can barely remember the movie after only a week. Nothing lasts, indeed.
  7. The movie's excruciating length is without dramatic or thematic justification.

See all 37 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 50 out of 188
  1. SamS.
    Mar 6, 2009
    10
    Get ready to cry. This movie deserves more than a 70, proving that the "critics" are not always correct.
  2. JimL.
    Jan 1, 2009
    10
    Engaging, moving. Terrific soundtrack.
  3. Apr 24, 2015
    9
    The premise underlying The Curious Case of Benjamin Button might sound more appropriate for a science fiction tale than a meditative drama.The premise underlying The Curious Case of Benjamin Button might sound more appropriate for a science fiction tale than a meditative drama. Indeed, the concept of a man aging backward has formed the basis for more than one sci-fi tinged story - from novels to an animated Star Trek episode - but the source material for this film is a 1922 short written by acclaimed novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. The original "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" functions as little more than an inspiration for this movie, which takes the idea and the name and follows a divergent path from the one mapped out by Fitzgerald. David Fincher's film is its own entity and, despite some minor flaws, it is undeniably engrossing and one of the more intriguing and emotionally resonant features of the 2008 holiday season.

    Chaos theory - the idea that small perturbations in the natural order in one place can cause ripple effects to be felt far and wide - lies at the heart and soul of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The only constant in life is change and it happens whether driven by fate (or kismet) or chance. One delicious vignette provides an explicit example as a car accident results from a series of small, seemingly unrelated interim incidents. Remove any one and that accident would not have happened. And, take away the accident and the rest of the movie would have moved on a different path toward a alternate ending. Life is like that. We never know whether any given action will vanish like a stone tossed into a pond or whether the ripples of that toss will build into a tsunami.

    If there's a Forrest Gump quality to the movie, that's unsurprising, considering that the screenwriter, Eric Roth, was responsible for both scripts. Like Forrest, Benjamin is an outcast of society, and history marches by him in a series of vignettes. But director David Fincher's darker side is in evidence. Benjamin does not share Forrest's charmed existence. For him, life is not a box of chocolates, and Jenny does not lie at the end of the rainbow. The ending of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button may feel a little rushed, but it is also elegiac. Many may see this as a more grown-up version of Forrest Gump, but it feels to me like something from the pen of Charlie Kaufman, who enjoys playing with time and conventions in much the way Fincher and Roth do here.

    The film is structured to comprise three major segments. The first represents Benjamin's childhood, when his seemingly failing physical appearance is belied by his increasing mental agility. For someone with his disability, he is surprisingly well adjusted, but some of that comes from having a loving mother. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button's second act occurs just before, during, and after World War II. That's when the main character enters into an affair with a middle-aged British woman (Tilda Swinton) in Russia, serves aboard a tugboat during the conflict, and returns home looking more hale and healthy than when he left. Finally, the third piece of the puzzle follows Benjamin from middle age into his golden years, when he learns a few things about sacrifice and redefining life and happiness.

    For the most part, the acting is of the highest quality, with supporting performers like Tilda Swinton, Jared Harris (as the captain of the tugboat aboard which Benjamin finds service), and Julia Ormond making the most of limited screen time. Cate Blanchett brings vibrancy and spirit to Daisy. Brad Pitt, however, is marginally less successful. His portrayal is solid but lacks the extra element necessary to catapult it into greatness. When Benjamin looks old, Pitt plays him as old, not as a young man trapped in a much older body. And when Benjamin looks young, Pitt plays him with the verve of a young man, not as an "old soul." The subtleties are missing and this may be the single element that could make it difficult for some to accept the premise.

    Although the movie is presented as a series of vignettes, its full impact is not felt until the whole is absorbed. Even the 2005 scenes with Caroline by her mother's bedside feed into what Fincher and Roth are saying about chaos theory, fate, and the sometimes unforgiving jolts imparted by change. In the end, Benjamin's reverse-aging is just a filter that allows us to gain a slightly skewed perception about the process of living and, perhaps by looking through that glass darkly, a better understanding of human nature. Is that too much for a mainstream movie to achieve? Perhaps, and I'm not sure The Curious Case of Benjamin Button takes us as far down that path as it might hope to. But there's no denying the film's power of compulsion and the sense that, when it's all over, it means something. Most viewers will be entertained and moved, and some will find their intellect aroused. The source material may be F. Scott Fitzgerald, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has come a long way from where it started 86 years ago.
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  4. Dec 31, 2011
    7
    First off, It's a wonderful film. But the great films seem to make you think. You could take the film and state that it was ratherFirst off, It's a wonderful film. But the great films seem to make you think. You could take the film and state that it was rather "hallmark-ish", but you could also look at the brilliance in it. One of the most down to earth films in recent years, Brad Pitt shines along with the film's stunning cinematography. The only thing weak here is Fincher's decision to direct a film that totals to just way too long, and way too sulky. Though performance weight out substance here. Expand
  5. EliasC
    Jun 11, 2009
    5
    Despite the seamless CGI work, this film is seriously flawed and bears little resemblance to the F. Scott short story of the same name. Very Despite the seamless CGI work, this film is seriously flawed and bears little resemblance to the F. Scott short story of the same name. Very good acting does not save this overlong film. 'The film version of the 'Time Traveler's Wife', with a similar theme, promises to be better. Expand
  6. BrunoF.
    Jul 23, 2009
    3
    An interesting concept, but a loooong boring movie.
  7. JulieD.
    Dec 26, 2008
    0
    This movie was so incredible boring. I experienced zero connection with the characters and couldn't care less what happened to them. I This movie was so incredible boring. I experienced zero connection with the characters and couldn't care less what happened to them. I just wanted the movie to end. Expand

See all 188 User Reviews

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