I just saw Brad Pitt’s new film, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, at our historic Prytania theatre on Sunday night. I’ve paid more attention, mostly for appreciative reasons, to Brad Pitt’s career since he has decided to make New Orleans his home as well as the focus of his charitable ventures such as his Make It Right Foundation. With the film taking place and having been shot right here in New Orleans (some of the many movie production trucks crowding around historic NOLA sites that have been appearing commonly since Katrina belong to this production), Brad Pitt again helps out his adopted home. This time he helps by reminding the outside world of just how picturesque, magical, and downright unique and beautiful place the city of New Orleans remains to this day.
I agree with Roger Ebert’s assertion that “Button” was very reminiscent of screenwriter Eric Roth’s other work, “Forrest Gump”. But hey, it’s not like Forrest Gump was a box office bomb, so maybe they did this on purpose. And if you liked “Gump”, you are almost certain to like this film, as the heavy-handed sentimentality of the earlier film is omnipresent in this feature as well. Pitt does, as always, a steady and believable job in the eponymous lead role, as well as providing his standard eye candy for the ladies. The film loses its way a bit, in my opinion, about ¾ of the way through when Pitt’s character finally realizes his long anticipated romance with Cate Blanchett and ponders his future as husband as father and makes choices that I found hard to swallow (I’ll be intentionally vague to avoid any spoiler alerts).
What the film did best was feature the city of New Orleans, its architecture, flora and resplendent beauty as both background AND centerpiece for this story. The French and Garden Quarters are heavily featured, with much of St. Charles Avenue and the streetcar line there. There are locations on Prytania, Napoleon and Esplanade as well as plenty of the mighty Mississippi and Audobon Park. For a person familiar with the city, the film takes on a new level of enjoyment as you play your own version of “Where’s Waldo” with the houses and landmarks of the city.
Its been said that the film exists as an apology from the film’s producers to the city of New Orleans for the city’s shabby treatment at the hands of Katrina and botched government assistance. Whether this is true or not, it’s nice to see the film industry paint such a loving homage to our beautiful city and for such an outstanding template to urge future filmmakers to come here as well.
Previews at the New Orleans Office of Film and Video: http://www.filmneworleans.org/site325.php