Spanning from WWI to the 21st century Eric Roth’s screenplay (based loosely on a 1922 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald) tells the unique story of a man named Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). He is born in New Orleans as a very old baby the equivalent of a man in his 80s who then ages backward into youth over the better part of a century. The film is told in flashback by a very old dying woman Daisy (Cate Blanchett) who recounts her tale to her daughter (Julia Ormond) from a hospital bed during Hurricane Katrina. Left on the doorstep of a retirement home one night by his father (Jason Flemyng) Benjamin is brought up by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) who runs the place. While there he meets a young girl Daisy who will become a key figure -- romantically and otherwise -- in his life. Ben does have some grand adventures: He goes to work on a boat sees sea battles during WWII finds love with an older married woman (Tilda Swinton) -- and gets progressively younger as the decades fly by. It all manages to be alternately haunting romantic funny epic emotional and incredibly moving and will likely to stay with you a lifetime. Brad Pitt manages to deliver a thoughtful and subtle performance through all the special effects makeup and CGI. He does so much just by using his eyes. Cate Blanchett is equally fine as she plays Daisy from a teenager to an old woman and matches Pitt in bringing an entire lifetime skillfully to light. Her aging makeup is completely natural and she’s very moving in the hospital scenes opposite Ormond. Henson is just marvelous as Queenie a warm and understanding soul. Swinton is elegant and memorable in her few crucial encounters with Ben and plays beautifully off Pitt. Jared Harris (TV’s The Riches) as the colorful Captain Mike who hires Ben on his tug boat and Flemyng (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) as Ben’s father are also effective in their brief screen time. Interestingly Benjamin Button has been gestating for decades in the Hollywood firmament but needed time for the proper technology to catch up to it. Director David Fincher (Zodiac Fight Club) with his early background at George Lucas’ ILM proves to be the perfect choice to marry a compelling story with spectacular visual effects achievement. He did not want to do the film unless the technology allowed one actor to play the role throughout the course of the film. Remarkably they were able to achieve this superimposing Brad Pitt’s face and eyes into all the incarnations of Ben Button. In one sequence Pitt looks just like he did in Thelma and Louise. It’s an amazing feat. He has seamlessly created a unique universe without ever bringing attention to it advancing the art of screen storytelling leaps and bounds ahead of everything else that has come before. Benjamin Button is a plaintive and provocative meditation of life death and what we do while we are here. It’s the stuff of dreams.
Dr. Matt Fowler (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife Ruth (Sissy Spacek) are throwing a summer barbecue at which their lone prodigy Frank (Nick Stahl) is proudly showing off his summer romance. Ruth vehemently disapproves: Natalie (Marisa Tomei) is an older single mother of two who is not quite divorced from the dark abusive Richard Strout (William Mapother) whose family runs their town of Camden Maine. For Frank Natalie is someone to keep the pipes greased before he heads off to study architecture at graduate school in the fall. Maybe. Frank is thinking of getting serious with Natalie and ditching school if Natalie would have him but there's that not quite ex-husband to deal with. The not quite ex-husband ends up killing Frank (this is supposed to be a plot twist but is the only action in the first two hours of the movie) which leads to much soul searching for Matt and Ruth--the raison d'etre of the movie.
With all due respect to Spacek who's been receiving a lot of Oscar buzz for her turn it's really Tom Wilkinson (The Full Monty Wilde The Patriot) who gives the most outstanding astonishing performance in this film. Matt's stilted missteps at each and every turn are so human so real you empathize with the pain he's feeling while you cringe at his every inappropriate action. An Academy win for Wilkinson seems more than merited though likely won't happen. Marisa Tomei is as good as she's ever been in the role of Frank's lover Natalie. The emotional tug-of-war in her relationship with Nick is clear on her face and the distress of never getting Ruth's approval is deafening. Spacek has a hard time claiming even the second-best performance of the film but she is compelling as Ruth the kind-hearted high school teacher who's become more closed and unforgiving than she ever imagined. You can see Spacek shutting down as her world crumbles around her. William Mapother and Nick Stahl do fine jobs with their (relatively) limited characters especially Mapother who is sufficiently creepy and desperate as Natalie's husband.
An actor turned director Todd Field wastes the fine performances in his debut film. Field seemingly likes to impart significance in the mundane moments of real life which works only sporadically. Field's direction is similar to Matt's reaction to his son's death: all of his actions seem stiff and mannered and when he does do something appropriate it's a complete accident. Worse Field leaves no room for character development only letting the characters descend further and further into despair ultimately turning the film into an art house Death Wish. (With apologies to Charles Bronson.) Given the supposed strength of the Maine proletariat it would have nice to see Matt and Ruth Fowler struggle against their evil inclinations before giving in so completely. Under Field's helming the film flounders at inopportune moments rendering the story utterly meaningless.
January 27, 2002 6:09am EST
Shrek stars Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy have agreed to voice the sequel to last year's animation mega-blockbuster, according to Reuters. And while we'll most likely have to wait until 2004 to see the ogre, Princess Fiona and Donkey in Shrek 2, we've learned one thing from its $900 million predecessor: green ogres rake in the green stuff.
Walt Disney Pictures announced Thursday that its major holiday animation film Treasure Planet will be released simultaneously in 35mm and IMAX Theaters on Nov. 27. Based on Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, this futuristic space adventure follows a boy pirate in search of the "loot of a thousand worlds." Emma Thompson, David Hyde Pierce and Martin Short will voice the characters.
Robert Redford's not the "Sundance Kid" for nothing. According to the Associated Press, Academy President Frank Pierson announced Friday that Redford, the actor/director/producer/creator of Sundance, will receive an honorary Oscar in March for having an "enormously positive impact on the motion picture industry" through his "dedication to independent filmmaking."
Speaking of "indie flicks," William Shatner and Harry Hamlin were in the Twin Cities Friday promoting their new low-budget flick, "Shoot or Be Shot," AP reports. Although this one probably won't get wide distribution, Hamlin said they took on the project because "we love the story, and we love the characters." (At least he's busy again; Hamlin's last notable role was on TV drama L.A. Law which ended in 1994).
Marisa Tomei and Ted Danson will announce the nominees for the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Tuesday, according to Ananova.com. The awards are given to both film and TV actors, and the winners will be announced March 10.
Mariah Carey may be back in the recording studio sooner than later. After a disappointing broken contract with EMI, the singer is rumored to be in negotiations with hip-hop label Def Jam, according to Sky News. Nothing has been finalized to date.
Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Phil Collins, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder are all set take part in Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee, a live concert honoring the queen's 50-year U.K. reign, Reuters reports. The BBC is scheduled to air the concert live June 3.
The Michael Jackson Internet Fan Club will be closing its doors Thursday, according to a message the MJIFC Team left on its site that read, "We are now ready to move on to other tasks in our lives." ABC News.com reports the site had been online for seven years.
PBS is celebrating 40 years of R&B classics in "Rhythm and Blues 40: A Soul Spectacular,'' Reuters reports. While no date is set, the artists highlighted will include the Isley Brothers, Percy Sledge, Eddie Holman, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes and others. Dionne Warwick will co-host the program with Jerry Butler and Sam Moore.
What's your favorite flavor? The Dave Matthews Band has a new one. It's called One Sweet Whirled, and it's named after their song "One Sweet World," according to MTV. Here's the scoop: it's one of several new Ben & Jerry's ice creams, combing coffee ice cream with caramel and marshmallow swirls.
Now for an '80s flashback. Pop band Bananarama will reunite at London's Astoria for a special 20th anniversary concert next month, Ananova.com reports. All three of the band's original members--Sara Dallin, Keren Woodward and Siobhan Fahey--will perform.
Playboy magazine is giving reality TV a shot, according to Sky News. Twelve contestants, who will be featured in the June issue of Playboy, will live with one another for two weeks while competing to become the July Playmate. Hugh Hefner will pick the winner for the show that's expected to be titled Who Wants To Be a Playboy Playmate?