‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ on Amazon Prime and Hulu

Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett , and Taraji P. Henson star in the film by David Fincher

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story is expanded into a sweeping survey of 20th century history and culture as seen through the eyes of a man who is born old and grows younger through the century. Brad Pitt completely commits to the part of the old/young man who enters the world as a doddering old infant and youthens through time and Cate Blanchett is the love of his life, who ages like the rest of us and meets him in the middle. It could have been the new incarnation of the Forrest Gump romp through American history (also from screenwriter Eric Roth) but it has more heart and more genuine heartbreak, and director David Fincher creates a magnificent texture of the past. Taraji P. Henson earned an Oscar nomination as Benjamin’s mother and Julia Ormond, Tilda Swinton, Jared Harris and Jason Flemyng co-star. It was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards in all and won three, for Best Visual Effects, Art Direction and Makeup.

Rated PG-13

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Also on DVD and Blu-ray and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (The Criterion Collection) [DVD]
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button [DVD]

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The original DVD and Blu-ray release was a curious case of the Criterion logo on a set otherwise released and distributed by Paramount. The disc features the handsome, austere Criterion art and menu design, which loads right up and takes you to the movie and the supplements without having to wade through trailers. The transfer is sterling (taken directly from the digital master of the largely HD-shot film) and supplements are serious, in-depth productions for serious film folk. But the documentary producers are not Criterion veterans but professionals with credits on DVD special editions from Paramount and Fox (including the non-Criterion releases of Fincher’s Panic Room and Zodiac, which are excellent editions in their own right).

Whatever the breakdown of responsibility and credit, this is a superb DVD production anchored by a very serious and typically observant commentary by Fincher (who drops a few harmless F-bombs in his solo commentary tour of the movie) and the documentary/production study The Curious Birth of Benjamin Button. Hit the “Play all” function and you get an almost three-hour documentary featuring almost every major collaborator on either side of the camera, who take you on a tour of the film from its initial attempts at adaptation in 1990 through the technology harnessed to create a backwards-aging Benjamin in the screen to the release. It’s dense and interesting and entertaining, far more engaging and captivating than the majority of such supplements. But there are also featurettes not included in the “Play all” that you can access separately and galleries of storyboards, art direction and costume sketches, and production stills. It’s not for everyone, but this is the kind of epic production documentary that fascinates me, not just because of the detail of information but also for the insights it offers into the collaborative process of filmmaking and the marriage of creative decisions and practical solutions. Whether or not it was the Criterion logo that inspired the DVD producers to take such an exhaustive and intense approach to the supplements, it’s a production that does the logo proud.

Also available in a movie-only DVD without the supplements.

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Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears in Vulture, Turner Classic Movies online, Keyframe, and Parallax View.

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