I have no idea why it took me so long to see this movie. But it did. And when I finally got my hands on the DVD, I was nearly bouncing with excitement.
Before I continue, I have a confession to make. Brad Pitt does nothing for me. I find him passably attractive, and always thought he wasn't worth the hype. But Quintin Tarantino was right ? Brad Pitt has reached his zenith as an actor. His performance in 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' simply blew me away. His sensitive, melancholy portrayal of the man who is born in his eighties and dies as a young infant was skillfully handled, and veered away from the potential for melodrama.
And up against Brad Pitt is one of my all-time avourite actresses ? the timeless Cate Blanchett. As fiery, wild, determined Daisy, Blanchett is spectacular. Their on-screen chemistry is simply breathtaking,
The film opens in a way that reminded me strongly of Tim Burton's 'Big Fish' - with Daisy virtually on her death bed. She asks her daughter to read to her out of Benjamin's journal, and through a mix of her daughter's voice and Brad Pitt's (with a Southern accent, I might add) the story unfolds across the decades ? from the end of World War I to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina.
'Benjamin Button' is a film made by its characters ? and two of the gems were Queenie ? Benjamin's adoptive mother, and Elizabeth Abbot, his first lover.
It is a film about love, about youth, about breaking boundaries and discovering one's self, and a film about loss. I was left quietly stunned (and yes, maybe a little tearful) at the irony of Benjamin's final moments.
I was also reminded of why I love to buy DVDs. Where many, many commercial disks just lump in a few trailers and maybe a few deleted scenes and call it 'Special Features', this DVD include a whole separate disk for special features in the form of featurettes, galleries and trailers.
Everybody from the director and the actors to the lighting technicians and costume designer takes you on a step-by-step journey through the making of 'Benjamin Button', right from the original scripting processes in the early 90s to the final premiere, the viewer is treated to a behind-the-scenes look at making a film of this magnitude.
Much of the technology for aging Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett was pioneered by the special effects and make up artists, and it is fascinating to hear their ideas and struggles. Also loads of fun is the 'Performance Capture' featurette where Brad Pitt is strapped into a chair and must work on the facial expressions that will bring Benjamin Button to life.
You go on searches for the perfect location, learn what types of cameras were used where, how the special effects team brought Benjamin to life, and see how thorough and demanding director David Fincher is. The filmmakers cover streets in ice in the late Montreal spring, rebuild old houses and tow out-of-commission trolley cars around for the perfect shot.
Also for those with a more artistic taste, galleries of the original storyboard art and costume designs have been included. As you flick through the images you can literally watch the ideas develop and see how they are translated to the screen.
All in all, not only one of the best films I have seen in a long while, but also one of the most entertaining and educational experiences as well.