Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Benjamin Button didn't leave me any younger

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button proved that, while a good movie can make you forget about time, a bad one can make one acutely aware of time's passage. Perhaps that was the meta-message of a movie about time's passage, in two directions, but I doubt it. It is, perhaps, better to explain the mess that I saw in terms of an attempt to make a deep, sensitive movie gone horribly awry.

If you want to read a review, but don't want to read mine, Charles T. Downey at Ionarts makes the points I would make if he had not made them. On to my take, then. I'll keep it short, since this isn't a movie site and I don't want it to be a movie site.

My problem with Bryan Singer's Valkyrie was that the film made too many safe, easily anticipated choices. Fincher's Benjamin Button didn't even do that. It belabored the same two or three points, even going so far as to include a superfluous and deeply redundant coda, for three hours. There were no choices: this is Calvinist movie-making, as everything is predestined. This movie was like M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense, but with the twist given away at the beginning of the movie. A good movie should draw you in, force you to surrender to its ebb and flow -- like a powerful river; Benjamin Button was like watching a pond. You pretty much get the idea and then you're ready to move on to something else.

I figure that this was supposed to be the holiday feel-good flick to counter the more serious run of Changeling, Milk, The Wrestler, Doubt, and Valkyrie (to name a few of the more noteworthy last-minute releases). The problem is, of course, that, if one wants to be the sort of family/date-night alternative, then one must either be as good as the competition or a mindless comedy. Even then, the mindless comedy can't be too bad, viz. Yes Man. The movie is deeply flawed because it doesn't actually do much, and it looks worse against movies that are actually really pretty good.

That having been said, as much as I was looking forward to Gran Torino, I'm on pins and needles, if only to cleanse my palate of the repetitive schmaltz with some good, old-fashioned Clint Eastwood vigilantism glorification.

'Fact, I'm going to go watch Magnum Force.


At 12:36 PM, Blogger Dana said...

I feel asleep in the middle of it. Watching a pond is nice for a bit, but lulls you to sleep after too long an inspection.


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