Reviewed by Simon Sweetman

A DAVID FINCHER film is always worth seeing, from reinventing a cult-classic with Alien 3 to making his own cult classics (Seven, The Game) and coming back from a lengthy sojourn to impress with Zodiac. There was of course a little film called Fight Club too; that one did okay! And even Panic Room, the only misstep in that lineup is a decent enough thriller, not without its charms.

A David Fincher film is always worth seeing, until you see The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, a curious film which ponderously plays out – allowing no real hook, no excitement, no clever catch and absolutely no irony – over close to three hours. Fincher played it straight enough with Panic Room but at least the pulse was allowed to quicken and you didn’t need to plan snacks for blood-sugar purposes.

In the end Benjamin Button is a cinematic rarity, if not in fact its own genre-exercise: a near flawless film – almost perfect to look at – that is absolutely pointless and really rather dull, lumbering and laboured.

Taken from an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, Brad Pitt plays the titular character, a man who ages in reverse, meaning he was born an alien-looking centenarian in swaddling and will start to look younger as he adds experience to his belt. Quite why this is happening is never adequately explained – sure there was a blind clockmaker who made a reverse clock to try to bring back the people who died in the war, but is that really satisfying?

The orphaned Button grows up bumping in to Cate Blanchett’s character, the pair finally able to snatch a couple of decades together after two hours of experience-gathering.

The film is a wannabe high-brow Forrest Gump and as cloying as Tom Hanks’ vehicle may have been at least there was movement and, occasionally, humour.

Some reviewers and cinema-goers have pointed to the straightness of Button as a strength – but that is about as satisfying as the explanation of this film’s premise. It’s also about as ingenuous as praising something that is boring by suggesting that at least it is not too interesting.

The real curious case here is that the film is up for a near record number of Oscars and as pointless as this is to argue I really believe that if Fincher was not involved (and, sure, to a lesser degree Pitt and Blanchett – in that order) this film would be no big deal. Also, remember the other bum-testing film currently doing the rounds, Australia, could have been served up for a thousand Thanksgiving dinners (yes, it’s that big of a turkey).

If/when Benjamin Button wins half a dozen Academy awards I sincerely hope the film’s publicist is profusely thanked. He/she has done one hell of a spin job. This is not just an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s a cinematic version of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Simon Sweetman’s ‘notes’ continue as a regular fixture on The Lumičre Reader throughout 2009.