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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Movie Review: Gump Redux

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

David Fincher’s Zodiac was one of my favorite and one of the best films of last year, if not the decade so far; a deep and focused police procedural that also had well-rounded characters. Fincher gave that film about a serial killer a great deal of heart and warmth. Benjamin Button, a film which wants so much to be about the heart that it seems to hit you over the head with hallow ponderings about it, ends up being what Zodiac could have turned out as: a cold, soulless, yet technically flawless film.
Eric Roth wrote both this film and Forrest Gump, both liberal adaptations of other works. However, the plot and character similarities between the two films, which has been widely noted, gives us a glimpse at how Gump was able to succeed where Button fails.

The casting: Blanchet and Pitt are perhaps the most boring and least charismatic couple in recent memory, and add to that Tilda Swinton as the other love interest, and you also have the whitest, and I mean palest leading cast since the days of silent cinema. Button, like Gump, is sentimental, and details a series of oft manipulating events meant to look pretty and make the audience feel like they care. Gump succeeded in connecting with the audience despite its sentimentality because its actors and characters, perhaps to a fault, transcended their roles and were accessible beyond mere plot devices. I not only wouldn’t have cared if Pitt and Blanchet had disappeared half-way through the film…I probably wouldn’t have noticed.

Gump is often given as an example of the passive protagonist. He is and he isn’t. He does have one simple and driving goal and everything else is just stuff that happens. Button, on the other hand, is completely passive, to the point where I can’t think of what he actually wants to do other than age backward.
Marvelous direction, cinematography, make-up effects; it’s technically a marvel, recommend the film and hold ones attention. However, It just lacks any real feeling.

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