An intimate epic about love and loss | Sunday Observer

An intimate epic about love and loss

1 August, 2021

‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ is a 2008 American fantasy romantic drama film directed by David Fincher. The storyline by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord is loosely based on the 1922 short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The film stars Brad Pitt as a man who ages in reverse and Cate Blanchett as the love interest throughout his life. The film also stars Taraji P. Henson, Mahershala Ali, Julia Ormond, Jason Flemyng, Elias Koteas, and Tilda Swinton.

Producer Ray Stark bought the film rights to do the short story in the mid-1980s with Universal Pictures backing the film, but struggled to get the project off the ground until he sold the rights to producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall in the 1990s.

Although it was moved to Paramount Pictures in the 1990s, the film did not enter production until after Fincher and Pitt signed on along with the rest of the cast in 2005. Principal photography began in November 2006 and wrapped up in September 2007. Digital Domain worked on the visual effects of the film, particularly in the process of the metamorphosis of Pitt’s character.

‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ was released in North America on December 25, 2008 to positive reviews from critics, who praised Fincher’s directing, Pitt’s performance, production values, and visual effects. The film was a box office success, grossing $335.8 million worldwide against its $167 million budget.

The film received thirteen Academy Award nominations, the most of the 81st Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Fincher, Best Actor for Pitt, and Best Supporting Actress for Taraji P. Henson, and won three, for Best Art Direction, Best Makeup, and Best Visual Effects.


For ’Benjamin Button’, New Orleans, Louisiana and the surrounding area was chosen as the filming location for the story to take advantage of the state’s production incentives, and shooting was slated to begin in October 2006.

By filming in Louisiana and taking advantage of the state’s film incentive, the production received $27 million, which was used to finance a significant portion of the film’s $167 million budget. Filming of ’Benjamin Button’ began on November 6, 2006 in New Orleans. In January 2007, Blanchett joined the shoot. Fincher praised the ease of accessibility to rural and urban sets in New Orleans and said that the recovery from Hurricane Katrina did not serve as an atypical hindrance to production.

In March 2007, production moved to Los Angeles for two more months of filming. Principal photography was targeted to last a total of 150 days.

Additional time was needed at visual effects house Digital Domain to make the visual effects for the metamorphosis of Brad Pitt’s character to the infant stage. The director used a camera system called Contour, developed by Steve Perlman, to capture facial deformation data from live-action performances.

Several digital environments for the film were created by Matte World Digital, including multiple shots of the interior of the New Orleans train station, to show architectural alterations and deterioration throughout different eras.

The train station was built as a 3D model and lighting and aging effects were added, using Next Limit’s Maxwell rendering software — an architectural visualization tool. Overall production was finished in September 2007.

Critical response

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 71% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 258 reviews, with an average rating of 7.10/10. The consensus reads: “’Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ is an epic fantasy tale with rich storytelling backed by fantastic performances.” On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 70 out of 100, based on 37 reviews. Yahoo! Movies reported the film received a B+ average score from critical consensus, based on 12 reviews. Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade A- on scale of A to F.

Todd McCarthy of ’Variety’ magazine gave the film a positive review, calling it a “richly satisfying serving of deep-dish Hollywood storytelling.” Peter Howell of ’The Toronto Star’ says: “It’s been said that the unexamined life is not worth living. ’The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ suggests an addendum: a life lived backwards can be far more enriching” and describes the film as “a magical and moving account of a man living his life resoundingly in reverse” and “moviemaking at its best.”

Rod Yates of ’Empire’ awarded it five out of a possible five stars. Kirk Honeycutt of ’The Hollywood Reporter’ felt the film was “superbly made and winningly acted by Brad Pitt in his most impressive outing to date.” Honeycutt praised Fincher’s directing of the film and noted that the “cinematography wonderfully marries a palette of subdued earthen colors with the necessary CGI and other visual effects that place one in a magical past.” Honeycutt states the bottom line about Benjamin Button is that it is “an intimate epic about love and loss that is pure cinema.”

A. O. Scott of ’The New York Times’ stated: “’The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’, more than two and a half hours long, sighs with longing and simmers with intrigue while investigating the philosophical conundrums and emotional paradoxes of its protagonist’s condition in a spirit that owes more to Jorge Luis Borges than to Fitzgerald.”

Scott praised Fincher and writes “Building on the advances of pioneers like Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Robert Zemeckis, Fincher has added a dimension of delicacy and grace to digital filmmaking” and further states: “While it stands on the shoulders of breakthroughs like ’Minority Report’, ’The Lord of the Rings’ and ’Forrest Gump’, ’Benjamin Button’ may be the most dazzling such hybrid yet, precisely because it is the subtlest.” He also stated: “At the same time, like any other love—like any movie—it is shadowed by disappointment and fated to end.”

Peter Bradshaw in ’The Guardian’ called it “166 minutes of twee tedium”, giving it one star out of five. Cosmo Landesman of the ’Sunday Times’ gave the film two out of five stars, writing: “The film’s premise serves no purpose. It’s a gimmick that goes on for nearly three hours ... ’The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ is an anodyne Hollywood film that offers a safe and sanitised view of life and death.”

James Christopher in ’The Times’ called it “a tedious marathon of smoke and mirrors. In terms of the basic requirements of three-reel drama the film lacks substance, credibility, a decent script and characters you might actually care for.” Derek Malcolm of London’s ’Evening Standard’ felt that “never at any point do you feel that there’s anything more to it than a very strange story traversed by a film-maker who knows what he is doing but not always why he is doing it.”