The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a 2008 American fantasy 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 was released in North America on December 25, 2008, and on February 6, 2009 in the United Kingdom, to positive reviews. The film went on to receive thirteen Academy Awardnominations, including Best PictureBest Director for Fincher, Best Actor for Pitt and Best Supporting Actress for Taraji P. Henson, and won three, for Best Art DirectionBest Makeup andBest Visual Effects.

Contents[edit | edit source]

 [hide*1 Plot

Plot[edit][edit | edit source]

In 2005, elderly Daisy is on her deathbed in a New Orleans hospital; she asks her daughter, Caroline, to read aloud from the diary of Benjamin Button. From the reading, we learn that on the evening of November 11, 1918, a boy is born with the appearance and physical maladies of an elderly man. The baby's mother died after giving birth, and the father, Thomas Button, abandons the infant on the porch of a nursing home. Queenie and Mr. "Tizzy" Weathers, workers at the nursing home, find the baby, and Queenie decides to care for him as her own.

Benjamin learns to walk in 1925; he declares it a miracle, after which he uses crutches in place of a wheelchair. On Thanksgiving 1930, Benjamin meets six-year-old Daisy, whose grandmother lives in the nursing home. Later, he accepts work on a tugboat captained by Mike. Benjamin also meets Thomas Button, who does not reveal that he is Benjamin's father. In autumn 1936, Benjamin leaves New Orleans for a long-term work engagement with the tugboat crew; Daisy later is accepted into a dance school in New York.

In 1941, Benjamin is in Murmansk, where he begins having an affair with Elizabeth Abbott, wife of the British Trade Minister. That December, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, thrusting America into World War II. Mike volunteers the boat for the U.S. Navy; the crew is assigned to salvage duties. During a patrol, the tugboat finds a sunken U.S. transport and the bodies of 1,300 American troops. A German submarine surfaces; Mike steers the tugboat full speed towards it while a German gunner fires on the tugboat, killing most of the crew including Mike. The tugboat rams the submarine, causing it to explode, sinking both vessels. Benjamin and another crewman are rescued by U.S. Navy ships the next day.

In May 1945, Benjamin returns to New Orleans and reunites with Queenie. A few weeks later, he reunites with Daisy; they go out for dinner. Upon failing to seduce him afterward, she departs. Benjamin later reunites with Thomas Button, who, terminally ill, reveals he is Benjamin's father. Thomas wills Benjamin his possessions before he dies.

In 1947, Benjamin visits Daisy in New York unannounced, but departs upon seeing that she has fallen in love with someone else. In 1954, Daisy's dance career ends in Paris when a taxi cab crushes her leg. When Benjamin visits her, Daisy is amazed by his youthful appearance, but frustrated by her injuries, she tells him to stay out of her life.

In spring 1962, Daisy returns to New Orleans and reunites with Benjamin. Now of comparable physical age, they fall in love and go sailing together. Upon their return, they learn that Queenie has died; they move in together after the funeral. In 1967, Daisy has opened a ballet studio and tells Benjamin that she is pregnant; she gives birth to a girl, Caroline, in the spring of 1968. Believing he can not be a father to his daughter due to his reverse aging, Benjamin sells his belongings, leaves the proceeds to Daisy and Caroline, and departs the next spring; he travels alone during the 1970s.

Benjamin returns to Daisy in 1980. Now married, Daisy introduces him to her husband and daughter as a family friend. Daisy admits that he was right to leave; she could not have coped otherwise. She later visits Benjamin at his hotel, where they share their passion for each other. After saying their good-nights, Benjamin watches Daisy leave in a taxi from his window.

Sometime in the early 1990s, widowed Daisy is contacted by social workers who have found Benjamin — now physically a preteen. When she arrives, they explain that he was living in a condemned building and was taken to the hospital in poor health, and that they found her name in his diary. The bewildered social workers also say he is displaying early signs of dementia. Daisy moves into the nursing home in 1997 and cares for Benjamin for the rest of his life. In the spring of 2003, Benjamin dies in Daisy's arms, physically an infant but chronologically 84 years of age. Daisy dies as Hurricane Katrina approaches.

Cast[edit][edit | edit source]

Production[edit][edit | edit source]

Development[edit][edit | edit source]

Producer Ray Stark bought the film rights to do The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in the mid-1980s, and it was optioned by Universal Pictures. The first choice to direct it was Frank Oz, with Martin Short attached for the title role, but Oz could not work out how to make the story work. The film was optioned in 1991 by Steven Spielberg, with Tom Cruise attached for the lead role, but Spielberg left the project to direct Jurassic Park and Schindler's List. Other directors attached were Patrick Read Johnson and Agnieszka Holland. Stark eventually sold the rights to producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, who took the film to Paramount Pictures, with Universal Pictures still on as a co-production partner. By summer 1994, Maryland Film Office chief Jack Gerbes was approached with the possibility of making the film in Baltimore. In October 1998, screenwriter Robin Swicord wrote for director Ron Howard an adapted screenplay of the short story, a project which would potentially star actor John Travolta.[4] In May 2000, Paramount Pictures hired screenwriter Jim Taylor to adapt a screenplay from the short story. The studio also attached director Spike Jonze to helm the project.[5] Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman had also written a draft of the adapted screenplay at one point.[6] In June 2003, director Gary Ross entered final negotiations to helm the project based on a new draft penned by screenwriter Eric Roth.[7] In May 2004, director David Fincher entered negotiations to replace Ross in directing the film.[8]

Casting[edit][edit | edit source]

In May 2005, actors Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett entered negotiations to star in the film.[9] In September 2006, actors Tilda SwintonJason Flemyng and Taraji P. Henson entered negotiations to be cast into the film.[10] The following October, with production yet to begin, actress Julia Ormond was cast as Daisy's daughter, to whom Blanchett's character tells the story of her love for Benjamin Button.[11] Brad Pitt had collaborated with many of his co-stars in previous films. He co-starred with Ormond in Legends of the Fall, with Flemyng in Snatch, with Harris in Ocean's Twelve, with Blanchett in Babel and with Swinton in Burn After Reading.

Filming[edit][edit | edit source]

[1][2]Some filming was conducted in theGarden District of New Orleans, including this home at 2707 Coliseum St.[3][4]Parisian scenes shooting in Old Montreal

For Benjamin ButtonNew OrleansLouisiana 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.[12] Filming of Benjamin Button began on November 6, 2006 in New Orleans. In January 2007, Blanchett joined the shoot.[13] 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.[14] In March 2007, production moved toLos 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.[15] The director used a camera system called Contour, developed by Steve Perlman, to capture facial deformation data from live-action performances.[16] Overall production was finished in September 2007.[17]

Music[edit][edit | edit source]

The score to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was written by French composer Alexandre Desplat, who recorded his score with an 87-piece ensemble of the Hollywood Studio Symphony at the Sony Scoring Stage.[18]

Reception[edit][edit | edit source]

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was originally slated for theatrical release in May 2008,[19] but it was pushed back to November 26, 2008.[20] The release date was moved again to December 25 in the United States, January 16, 2009 in Mexico, February 6 in the United Kingdom, February 13 in Italy[21] and February 27 in South Africa.

Box office performance[edit][edit | edit source]

On its opening day, the film opened in the number two position behind Marley & Me, in North America with $11,871,831 in 2,988 theaters with a $3,973 average.[3] However, during its opening weekend, the film dropped to the third position behind Marley & Me and Bedtime Stories with $26,853,816 in 2,988 theaters with an $8,987 average. The film has come to gross $127.5 million domestically and $206.4 million in foreign markets, with a total gross of $333.9 million.[3]

Critical response[edit][edit | edit source]

The film has received positive reviews. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 73% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 232 reviews.[22] According to Metacritic, the film received an average score of 70 out of 100, based on 37 reviews.[23] Yahoo! Movies reported the film received a B+ average score from critical consensus, based on 12 reviews.[24]

Todd McCarthy of Variety magazine gave the film a positive review, calling it a "richly satisfying serving of deep-dish Hollywood storytelling."[25] 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."[26] Rod Yates of Empire awarded it five out of a possible five stars.[27] 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 earthern 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."[28]

A. O. Scott of The New York Times states: "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 director David Fincher and writes "Building on the advances of pioneers like Steven SpielbergPeter Jackson andRobert Zemeckis, Mr. 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 ReportThe 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."[29] On the other hand, Anne Hornaday of The Washington Post states: "There's no denying the sheer ambition and technical prowess of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. What's less clear is whether it entirely earns its own inflated sense of self-importance" and further says, "It plays too safe when it should be letting its freak flag fly."[30] Kimberley Jones of the Austin Chronicle panned the film and states, "Fincher's selling us cheekboned movie stars frolicking in bedsheets and calling it a great love. I didn't buy it for a second."[31]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying that it is "a splendidly made film based on a profoundly mistaken premise." He goes on to elaborate that "the movie's premise devalues any relationship, makes futile any friendship or romance, and spits, not into the face of destiny, but backward into the maw of time."[32] Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian called it "166 minutes of twee tedium", giving it one star out of a possible five.[33]

Cosmo Landesman of the Sunday Times wrote: "The film's premise serves no purpose. It's a gimmick that goes on for nearly three hours," concluding "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is an anodyne Hollywood film that offers a safe and sanitised view of life and death. It's Forrest Gump goes backwards," while awarding the film two out of five stars.[34] 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"[35] while Derek Malcolm of London's Evening Standard notes 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."[36]

Similarities with Forrest Gump[edit][edit | edit source]

Many critics noted the resemblance between the screenplay for the film and Forrest Gump (1994), both of which were written by Eric Roth.[37] Among the similarities are a hero who:

  • Narrates the story starting with the words "My name is...";
  • Is born in the South without a father and has difficulty walking;
  • Is born on an important day in American history;
  • Has a mother who gives him pearls of wisdom and helps him walk;[38]
  • Meets the love of his life as a child and then sporadically throughout his life — they have one long stint of being together but are unable to make their relationship last despite conceiving a child together;
  • Works for a period of time on a boat;
  • Serves in a wartime battle in which a friend of his is killed;
  • Returns home after an extended absence only to witness the death of his mother;
  • Travels the world on his own for an extended period of time;
  • Spends a very limited time with his love and speaks "those were the most beautiful days of my life"
  • Earns a lot of money easily.[39][40]

These similarities were the subject of a parody film which went viral.[41]

Home media[edit][edit | edit source]

The film was released on DVD on May 5, 2009 by Paramount, and on Blu-ray and 2-Disc DVD by The Criterion Collection. The Criterion release includes over three hours of special features, and a documentary about the making of the film.[42]

As of November 1, 2009 the DVD has sold 2,515,722 DVD copies and has generated $41,196,515 in sales revenue.[43]

Accolades[edit][edit | edit source]

Award Category Recipient Result
81st Academy Awards[44] Best Picture Kathleen Kennedy

Frank Marshall Ceán Chaffin

Best Director David Fincher Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Brad Pitt Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Taraji P. Henson Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Eric Roth Nominated
Best Film Editing Kirk Baxter

Angus Wall

Best Cinematography Claudio Miranda Nominated
Best Art Direction Donald Graham Burt

Victor J. Zolfo

Best Costume Design Jacqueline West Nominated
Best Makeup Greg Cannom Won
Best Original Score Alexandre Desplat Nominated
Best Sound Mixing David Parker

Michael Semanick Ren Klyce Mark Weingarten

Best Visual Effects Eric Barba

Steve Preeg Burt Dalton Craig Barron

American Society of Cinematographers[45] Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases Claudio Miranda Nominated
Austin Film Critics Association[46] Best Supporting Actress Taraji P. Henson Won
British Academy Film Awards Best Film Kathleen Kennedy

Frank Marshall Ceán Chaffin

Best Makeup & Hair Won
Best Director David Fincher Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Eric Roth Nominated
Best Leading Actor Brad Pitt Nominated
Best Costume Design Nominated
Best Music Alexandre Desplat Nominated
Best Cinematography Claudio Miranda Nominated
Best Editing Nominated
Best Production Design Won
Best Visual Effects Won
Broadcast Film Critics[47] Best Film Nominated
Best Actor Brad Pitt Nominated
Best Actress Cate Blanchett Nominated
Best Director David Fincher Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Taraji P. Henson Nominated
Best Cast Nominated
Best Screenplay Eric Roth Nominated
Best Composer Alexandre Desplat Nominated
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Awards Best Score Alexandre Desplat Won
Top 10 Films of the Year 9th place
Chicago Film Critics Association Best Picture Nominated
Best Director David Fincher Nominated
Best Screenplay, Adapted Eric Roth Nominated
Best Cinematography Claudio Miranda Nominated
Best Original Score Alexandre Desplat Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures David Fincher Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture Drama Nominated
Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama Brad Pitt Nominated
Best Director - Motion Picture David Fincher Nominated
Best Screenplay Eric Roth Nominated
Best Original Score Alexandre Desplat Nominated
Houston Film Critics Society Awards Best Picture Won
Best Director David Fincher Nominated
Best Actor Brad Pitt Nominated
Best Actress Cate Blanchett Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Taraji P. Henson Nominated
Best Screenplay Eric Roth Nominated
Best Cinematography Claudio Miranda Won
Best Score Alexandre Desplat Nominated
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards Best Art Direction Won
Best Cinematography Claudio Miranda Won
Best Costume Design Jacqueline West Won
London Film Critics' Circle Best Film Nominated
Director of the Year David Fincher Won
British Supporting Actress of the Year Tilda Swinton Won
Screenwriter of the Year Eric Roth Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best Female Performance Taraji P. Henson Nominated
National Board of Review[47][48] National Board of Review: Top Ten Films Shortlisted
Best Director David Fincher Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Eric Roth Won
Satellite Awards Best Adapted Screenplay Eric Roth

Robin Swicord

Best Art Direction and Production Design Donald Graham Burt

Tom Reta

Best Cinematography Claudio Miranda Nominated
Best Costume Design Jacqueline West Nominated
Saturn Award Best Fantasy Film Won
Best Actor Brad Pitt Nominated
Best Actress Cate Blatchett Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Tilda Swinton Won
Best Director David Fincher Nominated
Best Writing Eric Roth Nominated
Best Music Alexandre Desplat Nominated
Best Make-Up Won
Best Visual Effects Nominated
Scream Awards Best Fantasy Actor Brad Pitt Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Brad Pitt Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Taraji P. Henson Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards[49] Best Film Won
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Awards[50] Best Director David Fincher Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Art Direction Won
Writers Guild of America Awards Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay Eric Roth

Robin Swicord

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