The Curious Case of Brad’s Incredibly Bad Movie

January 6, 2009 at 2:33 am (Uncategorized)

My friend T warned me. We were chatting on the ‘phone the other day, and he spelled it out for me in no uncertain terms. 

“The Curious Case of whatever-the-hell,” he announced, “is shit.”

“Really?” I said. “But it’s getting such great raps. It’s been nominated for five Golden Globes.”

“Yeah well,” he said, totally unimpressed, “it’s still shit.”

“That’s such a shame,” I moaned. “I was looking forward to seeing it.”

“It’s almost worth seeing just for how supremely bad it is,” T continued. “If you want to look at a movie that’s about nothing more than cash registers ringing, go see this movie. It’s not about anything. It’s just a cash cow. And it’s already been done. It’s Forrest Gump all over again.”

(Now is probably as good a time as any to come clean: I walked out of Forrest Gump. I thought it was risible. T’s assessment of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button therefore did not bode well, but I admit my curiosity was piqued – could anything really be as bad whilst simultaneously being up for as many awards as Forrest Gump? It scarcely seemed possible.)

The following night, Llew and I decided to go and see Australia, Baz Luhrmann’s all-but-universally panned epic. Everyone I’ve spoken to thoroughly enjoyed it. Maybe the critics weren’t expecting Baz’s usual blend of high-camp and pastiche. Maybe they thought it was going to be really high-minded instead of highly entertaining. I’m not sure, and I haven’t seen it yet so I can’t comment, but it’s safe to say everyone I know who’s seen it has gotten their money’s worth. I haven’t heard one bad thing out on da street. And I didn’t get to see it Saturday night because the session was sold out. Sold. Out. Go Baz. And whilst we’re about it, go Nicole. I’m still reeling from the acid bath Nickers received on the movie’s release. I mean, all she did was come home to make a movie and try and give a desperately-needed boost to the Australian film industry. What a pack of ugly ingrates we turned out to be. 

As fate would have it, the next movie showing was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I’d told Llew what T said about it, but we both sort of shrugged and decided that, if anything, this made us want to see it more. In we went. 

I can’t remember the last time I rolled my eyes and shifted in my seat and stifled bursts of laughter so often in a movie. Oh wait. I can. It was watching Forrest Gump. And the most hilarious thing is that the FG comparison T made was maybe the one thing I didn’t mention to Llew when repeating our conversation, and yet when the lights came up, the very first thing Llew said was, “Well, that’s not winning any of those awards because Forrest Gump has won them all already.” 

Ain’t that the truth?!

What are they thinking, nominating this film for Golden Globes?? It’s confounding. First, there’s the pathetic reliance on narration over dialogue. I don’t think Cate Blanchett’s character and Brad Pitt’s Benjamin Button have one complete conversation in the entire, excruciatingly over-long running time. Why have characters talk when you can narrate? Well, gee, so we can give a shit about them, that’s why. Second, as T pointed out, it’s not about anything. Except maybe the preternatural luminosity of Cate Blanchett’s skin. It’s true that the state of Cate’s pores held my attention for much of the movie. Was it real? Or was it tampered with? Or does SKII really work? These were the big, burning questions. Button, on the other hand, doesn’t do anything special or interesting or courageous or noble or even just plain perverse with his life-lived-in-reverse fate. Nope. It’s all pretty dreary if you ask me. A study of mediocrity. Oh, except for those laugh-out-loud dreamy pin-up shots of Pitt on a motorbike or Pitt on a yacht (and trust me, I did laugh out loud). Third, where’s the moral of the long, boring story? If my calculations are correct, Button is 42 when he and Blanchett’s character have a baby. Which means he’s 41 when he scoots out on them a year later so that she “won’t have to raise them both.” Which means he’s got about 25 years of adulthood left before he can reasonably be considered a child, by which time his daughter would be 26 and well and truly an adult. It JUST DOESN’T ADD UP. He does a runner, pure and simple. Why? If she’s the love of his life and they’ve got another 25 possible adult years together, why does he leave her to raise their child alone? There’s just not one good reason. Nor is there one good reason for that whole Hurricane Katrina link to the present day. Nor is there a good reason for the recurring CGI motif of the hummingbird (cue more laughter from me as the hummingbird smacks against the glass window of the hospital room in the final frame). 

If this movie wins a single award I will be not only gob-smacked but also finally jaded about the worth of these dust collectors. I just won’t believe they have any integrity whatsoever, ever again (it took me a long time to recover after FG). And I’d like to see Brad Pitt score the role of a lifetime. I have nothing against the man. But this role is not it. It can’t be. This movie is profoundly irritating, it’s glossed, it’s cynical about the movie-goer, it’s over-hyped beyond belief, and it’s just plain bad. Life is not like a box of chocolates, and it never was.

Postscript: the ranks of dissent are swelling. One of the biggest cinephiles I know emailed a group of us today warning us to avoid this movie at all costs. One of the group emailed back saying her mother actually ranted afterwards about how terrible it was. Cinephile said one scene that made other people cry in the cinema still makes her giggle. Trust her if not me: this movie sucks.

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8 Comments

  1. litlove said,

    Oh I’d trust you. Your description of the movie is hilarious. I’ve never watched Forrest Gump (cinema isn’t my medium) and am extremely unlikely to watch this either. But I do know that the more a critics hate a movie, the more chance there is I might actually enjoy it on some level.

  2. Jenny said,

    I hated Benjamen Button as well. But i thoroughly enjoyed Australia. Especially the kid, Nullah. What a mesmerising performance! Is it a case of cultural cringe perhaps?

  3. Pete said,

    Di, you make a compelling case! I will shun Button with the contempt formerly reserved for some other dumbass movie. I liked FG though in a strange kind of way. Perhaps it’s a pastiche on American stupidity? Or not. But I did see Woody Allen’s “Vicky Christina Barcelona” which was silly and self-indulgent. I laughed at the love scene between Scarlet Johannsen and Penelope Cruz and Woody totally does the whole narration over dialogue thing. His characters were superficial but maybe seeing Cruz as the nutcase Maria Elena was worth it. I still think Woody Allen is an MCP in disguise (with pseudo-psychological insights) and his characters are all adolescents.

  4. doctordi said,

    You’re not going to believe this, Pete, because I’ve never talked movies with you before, but as I was writing that post yesterday I thought to myself, “I bet Pete found Forrest Gump’s redeeming features in a way I just couldn’t” – crazy, huh? I think it’s your training – you just have a whole lot more patience than me. And maybe you’re more forgiving. Yes, agree with you completely about Woody Allen being a barely-disguised frustrated MCP – he might have had a whole other career. I still want to see VCB – and if you liked FG, maybe you should still see the CC of BB. As T said, it’s almost worth it for how bad it is.

    See, Jenny, you’re yet another person who enjoyed Australia! Yes, I think cultural cringe is probably a massive part of it, but aren’t we bored with it now?! Can’t we just put that cringe behind us? It seems the critics aren’t prepared to embrace the movie, but I’m so glad the populace apparently has. I am genuinely looking forward to it – I think it’ll be fun.

    Litlove, cinema not your medium?! Oh, I LOVE movies. I recently read a DeLillo quote where he said that when he and his writer friends get together, they don’t talk about books, they talk about film, and I thought ‘A-ha! You too!’ – and I guess there’s a good debate to be had as to why some writers do and some writers don’t embrace film. I’ve always loved it. I’ll never forget seeing ‘Auntie Mame’ for the first of many times (including over the Christmas break) when I was a child – I desperately, DESPERATELY wanted to be the one delivered to her door. It fired my imagination easily as much as The Magic Faraway Tree or Bridge to Terabithia or any of the other books I remember now and loved then for taking me so far elsewhere.

  5. kate said,

    Oh Di! Who didn’t want to be Auntie Mame’s charge? Fab movie! Still one of my fav’s and still one of my favourite lines!

  6. doctordi said,

    Honestly, Kate, which one?! Having just watched it again, I can say with absolute confidence that ‘Auntie Mame’ is FULL of great lines. As childish as it is, I think part of me is still hoping… Maybe Auntie Mame is the root cause of my lifelong NYC obsession. It would make sense, because boy, she sure makes it look swell!

  7. kate said,

    ‘Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!!’ Hmmmm, I too harbour a secret longing to go to New York. You may well be right!!

  8. doctordi said,

    Ah yes. That is a beauty. Oh how I love that movie. Kate, having walked the length of Manhattan several times on two different trips, I can only say this: you must go.

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