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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Blu-ray DVD / drama DVD / suspense DVD review
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 5 stars
Featuring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Julia Ormond, Tilda Swinton, Jason Flemyng, Taraji P. Henson
Director: David Fincher Studio: Criterion
DVD release: 05 May 2009 Runtime: 165 min.
(2 discs)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 2.40:1, Audio tracks (5.1 DTS-HD Master AudioT - English; 5.1 Dolby Digital - French, Spanish), Subtitles (English SDH, English, Spanish, French, Portugese), Interviews with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, Audio commentary (dir. David Fincher), Footage revealing the innovative techniques behind the Academy Award-winning visual effects and makeup, Step-by-step examination of the motion-capture process aging Brad Pitt, In-depth exploration of David Fincher's creative process on the set, Interview w/ composer Alexandre Desplat about the score, Featurettes (storyboards, costumes, Academy Award-winning Art Direction), Stills galleries (costume designs, behind-the-scenes production photos), Essay by film critic Kent Jones

F. Scott Fitzgerald originally wrote "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" as a short story in 1921. The underlying premise was that youth was wasted on the young. David Fincher takes a different angle on the story in his 2008 Academy Award-nominated film.

On Armistice Day, 1918, the city of New Orleans is alive with celebration. The Great War is over, but there is anxiety as well. A child is born, but his mother has died in giving birth to him. The child is abnormal - he seems ancient before his time. His joints are arthritic, his eyes clouded with cataracts; his skin is thin, wrinkled and papery. Benjamin's father takes this child and leaves him on the steps in front of a nursing home.

This child is discovered by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), who raises him as her own son. In his condition, how long could he live? A few days at most. Over the years, he graduates from wheelchair to crutches to a cane, all the while seeming to age in reverse. It's a fascinating study that we've all considered, as when the grumpy neighbor in It's a Wonderful Life laments "Aaah, youth is wasted on the wrong people," when George Bailey fails to kiss Mary Hatch after the school dance. What if we could do youth with the wisdom granted by years of experience? We'd probably still have our thinkers muddled by carbonated hormones.

The sheer technical achievement of Benjamin Button is amazing, and it's a process I'm fascinated by. Actors who are small in stature were chosen to portray Benjamin at various stages of development. Using computers, their facial performance was replaced by an aged Brad Pitt's face. The performances of these stand-ins are really excellent, and it's a shame that they are covered up. Unsung heroes Peter Donald Badalamenti II, Robert Towers, and Tom Everett did amazing work they should be remembered for.

It's easy to overlook the technical wonders of Benjamin Button because it is so seamless and the performances so overpower the technical gee-whiz. Brad Pitt plays Benjamin in his... er... adult life, and his performance is pitch-perfect. He is subdued and conservative, and he's lost a lot of friends growing up in a nursing home - the people who taught him his basic life skills died before they could complete their lessons. Cate Blanchett plays Daisy, Ben's love interest. They are pretty close to the same age but aging in opposite directions. Predictably, there is a sweet spot in the middle of their lives when they can be a viable couple. The development of their relationship is fascinating as the main thread running through the film.

The extra features disc in this set is fantastic, but you'd expect no less from the Criterion Collection. The featurettes examine the film in it's various states of being at a casual pace, filling the audience with information about many aspects of the film. It's not the same stuff you'd get in an HBO First-Look type of rundown. They have time; they know that people are hungry for more technical aspects of filmmaking, and they serve it up. I love to see in-depth discussions about what kind of cameras are used, though 90% of this information means nothing to me. I know that someone is using this knowledge for their next film. I make no secret of my absolute favorite set of extra features ever created: The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition. With Benjamin Button, we have a good contender.

The Blu-ray quality is excellent. The picture is is crisp and clear, the audio is wonderful, full and rich. If you're interested in the technical aspects of filmmaking or just the fascinating story of a man who ages in reverse, you won't be disappointed with this fine Criterion Collection edition.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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