The similarity was noted by Flavorwire several weeks ago. Same director, same basic concept. Although otherwise, having read Aaron Sorkin‘s Social Network script, it’s difficult to imagine two films more unalike.

29 thoughts on “Mugs

  1. I don’t care what anyone says, or that it’s become a Forrest Gump/Titanic-style punching bag for cynical movie board commenters for not being edgy and cool like his other movies…

    That mid-movie section in BENJAMIN BUTTON where Pitt and Blanchett catch up with each other age-wise had me sobbing like a little girl… so did the bit where he sets up a chair for his old man on the pier… so did that final montage of everybody’s life with the rowdy fisherman all happy and boisterous… so did the montage of Button traversing the globe working odd jobs… hell, I was wailing like a kid reading Sounder for at least 2/3 of that movie, think it was the best of 2008, and I have no idea how or why its stock has fallen so badly in two years even with Fincher devotees.

    And by even mentioning that, I know the only thing I’ll get is 38 guys angrily and cynically telling me how and why it sucks or how and why it’s manipulative or what bits go on too long, but I don’t care… It’s an emotional movie more than an intellectual one, and it hit me on every level of everything I’m fascinated by…


    I haven’t revisited since theaters because I know I’ll be a walking disaster watching it, but after losing it for two hours watching TITANIC the other night, maybe I’ll run out and buy CCOBB today so I can make myself feel even worse.

  2. Yes, I see the resemblance. Both faces.

    In all seriousness, though — and since I have nothing else to add having not read TSN script — I have to say that was one of the most sincerely upfront and emotionally revealing LexG posts ever.

    Kudos, sir.

    (I really like TCCoBB, too, but at this point it seems to be considered so unhip to cop to that enjoying that flick that I had sort of given up reppin’ it about a year ago).

  3. Ok, Lex, 2 points:

    The problem with the film is that for a film of that length, you can’t have a weak/forgettable ending as BUTTON did. All those great moments (for me, I always remember the Tilda Swinton Russian section. Had vodka and caviar within a week of watching it) have receded for the audience and they leave the theater in the “meh” mood the film ended on. If stuck on a ship for a week with only the Fincher catalog, I don’t know if ALIEN 3 or BUTTON would be the last thing I got to.

    If 38 guys write in, probably a big motivation is the hypocrisy of you leaving a post like this. You can’t write post after post that reads like a tryout for MANswers promo spots and taking huge shits on Pixar films, then turn around wanting to share…. (cue Morris Albert’s gift to parody).

    @Jeff – perhaps this will turn into Fincher’s ad style. It certainly will be a good choice for DRAGON TATTOO GIRL. Do we really need to know anything more than “A Film by David Fincher” to get us in the theater? Let the hoi polloi see a shot of the star/character and the rest of us will settle for his name. Although, it might be an odd choice should he do that 20,000 LEAGUES remake.

  4. What is going to happen if Noomi Rapace gets nominated for best actress for Dragon Tattoo? She is eligible according to some sources and is certainly deserving. Despite how good Finchers girl is its still going to be Roger Moore to Rapace’s Connery. I was always under the impression that Fincher’s version would be an American reimagining but since we’ve come to find out that’s not the case I’m not sure what to think anymore.

  5. If Noomi is indeed eligible, she is damn well the front-runner in my book.

    Say what you will about that movie as a whole — personally, I loved it — but that performance is absolutely beyond reproach. She was that character. And anyone that hopes to compete with her in that race better hope her character is at least half as interesting written on the page as Rapace’s. Lisbeth is a singular cinematic (anti-) heroine — giving a “great” performance just won’t (or at least shouldn’t) do the trick this year, IMHO.

  6. Oddly enough, the last section of Button was almost what sold me on the film being a masterpiece. It’s weird, awful, scary, and certainly doesn’t pull any punches at all when it comes to portraying the ravages of time on both ends of the spectrum (if anything, this is a film that truly taught me to treasure my limited years in middle age). I also liked the parallels it drew between newborns and geriatrics — in both instances, your brain starts failing you and your body seems to act like a foreign entity.

    I actually would have liked to see this part of the film expanded a bit — at least by a couple scenes.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disagreeing that this specific part of the movie isn’t a very commercially-oriented ending (or at least as much as it could be), but I don’t think Fincher ultimately gives a fuck. And I think that’s exactly why I like the movie — and love Fincher — as much as I do.

    In short, I think it’s a little underrated. At least insofar as a $150 prestige picture starring Brad Pitt and opening on Christmas Day can be.

  7. Count me among the unwaivering Benjamin Button fans/admirers. There’s too many strong, striking moments to dismiss it, or even disparage it to the degree it has been. I’m sick of the negative criticism amounting to little more than a Forrest Gump reference. And I’d take Ben Button and Alien3 over Seven if only for rewatchability’s sake and the fact that Seven feels tired because of the serial killer subgenre it spawned/inspired. Not a criticism of the film itself, I realize, but enough to make me want to revisit BB or Fincher’s Alien first. As for Noomi Rapace, eligible or not, she’s given the strongest, most-memorable performance by an actress so far this year.

  8. enough about the BB criticism…this post is about the poster…and I think the Social Network is brilliant…designed by Neil Kellherhouse…who came up with a concept that ‘no one at the studio knew how to sell’

  9. “The problem with the film is that for a film of that length, you can’t have a weak/forgettable ending as BUTTON did. ”

    Wait, do you mean the really really really emotionally powerful stuff involving Blanchett and the little boy? Because I thought that was the best stuff in the movie by a large margin (I wasn’t a fan of the movie overall, but that stuff got to me, too little far far far too late, but still).

    But if you’re talking about the absolutely terrible wraparound stuff involving Katrina, then yes. (I wrote a draft of this post that was angrily defending the above-mentioned ending until I remembered the actual forgetable ending to which you referred).

  10. Gordn27 hits the nail on the head. The biggest distraction with CCoBB, for me, was all of the Katrina/Blanchett-dying-in-the-hospital-with-bad-aging-makeup stuff. Not only was it distracting, but it undermined the core of the rest of the film.

    To ground the film in something real and modern, at the outset, to only flip it on its head twenty minutes later for the bulk of the narrative is perplexing. For example, part of the fallout from Katrina was a loud conversation about the state of race in this country. As soon as it’s referenced in the opening scenes, all of the tragedy of Katrina comes flashing in our thoughts. The rest of BB’s narrative didn’t even bother to ground this concept in the narrative even though it took place in ‘the past’. For someone of Fincher’s skill and deep talent, this move is lazy.

  11. Agreed about BUTTON being way underrated. The elegiac tone of the entire thing is masterful Old Hollywood. There are a few elements I think qualify as missteps — I think Amy Taubin was right in saying she wished Fincher’s usually pitch perfect bullshit alarm had gone off with regard to some of the hummingbird stuff — but it’s a terrific movie.

    Great post, Lex — thanks.

  12. I agree that the Katrina bookends — there’s actually too many of them to even fairly call them bookends, really — are the worst part of the movie. I actually don’t even know why they exist, really (I mean, I understand them from a Robert McKee-type perspective, but aside from possibly Panic Room, has Fincher ever been known to endorse traditional plotting schemes?).

    They’re honestly probably even worse — and certainly more emotionally intrusive — than the similarly ill-conceived ones in Saving Private Ryan.

  13. It’s a rare occurrence, but in his emotional response to BUTTON, I’m completely on board with Lex.

    The Curious Case of Button Malignment will seem weird in a couple decades, when we see the film for the meticulous, haunting rumination that it is.

    And the ending scenes might not have been perfect, but the image at the end sure was close.

  14. The big difference in the posters, of course… is that you don’t hide Brad Pitt’s face with text. As for Jesse Eisenberg… who?

  15. “I mean, I understand them from a Robert McKee-type perspective, but aside from possibly Panic Room, has Fincher ever been known to endorse traditional plotting schemes?”

    I think he’s pretty good at structure usually. In this case, the movie has a fairly natural structure, Ben living his life in reverse. The problem is that the movie chose to try and make him some kind of figure of mystery and, thus, he couldn’t be telling the story himself, so they had to concoct a way to be telling the story. This could be something to do with his supernatural “power”, that they wanted to keep him mysterious. And I’ve heard it said that Hollywood hates period pieces, and thus would’ve pushed to include some modern elements, especially at the beginning.

    But I’m inclined to believe that it’s a different Hollywood thing; I have this working theory that Hollywood hates it when a main character dies. They’ll fight it, but it has to happen sometimes. But when it’s intrinsically tied to the story, then they push to have a second main character, someone who will be the actual audience surrogate. Audiences get too sad when the main character dies, so they need to instead have the main character watch as somebody important to them dies. I can kind of see their point — as there is no viewer who can relate to being dead, but plenty who can relate to close friends dying — but I think that ‘audience surrogate’ characters in movies tend to actually distance the audience more; they don’t get as engaged because they can more passively watch as somebody onscreen gets engaged for them.

    I had a whole other part to this post, but it got really long, so I’ll sum up the second point — my problem with the bookends is that they use Katrina not as a national tragedy, but as a cheap gimmick to ratchet the suspense. (And the movies general attitude of entirely ignoring racial stuff doesn’t help.)

  16. Makes sense…I didn’t even think of this parallel, but of course in SPR (*Spoiler or whatever*) Miller dies, too.

    Again, that wraparound stuff works a lot better because our surrogate in that film is introduced in a much more organic fashion (he is, after all, technically the title character), and the present-day stuff doesn’t seem overly stagy or distracting (other than his big-titted granddaughters).

    But it does make you wonder sometimes. I think a European film — or even possibly an American war film from a European director — would be less inclined to deal with all this rather silly narrative business and just fade to black fairly soon after the obvious “Earn this” climax.

    I remember watching Chinatown when I was young (far too young to fully appreciate the intricacies of the script, or even the general craftsmanship), and just being blown away that a Hollywood movie could actually end that way. It was a real eye-opening, “what the fuck?”-type moment in the best possible way.

  17. “Again, that wraparound stuff works a lot better”

    Also because it’s quicker.

    I don’t remember the exact scene, but I swear there’s a part in ‘Button’ where it cuts back to the present day, the daughter says “And then what?’ and the old lady says, “Well, I’ll tell you” and it goes RIGHT BACK to the same scene.

    Besides ‘Private Ryan’, see also Willis & Affleck in ‘Armageddon’ for an example of this.

    Re: Chinatown – since I said that whole thing about the audience surrogate, I should say that detective movies are actually an exception to the “rule” I said before; having a limited POV on the movie where the audience is watching the detective figure stuff out can work by the surrogate principle, since the audience is trying to figure stuff out too. But, generally, at a certain point, the detective gets ahead of the audience, and then the final summation scene is his chance to show the audience that he’s smarter than them. I don’t think Chinatown has any moment where Nicholson gets ahead of the audience, does it?

  18. I think the point of specifically naming Katrina and not just making it some anonymous impending storm is for a few reasons.

    First, the cast and crew spent a lot of time in Louisiana, and it was personal for them. They saw what happened to people down there. Pitt is still personally and financially involved in the recovery of New Orleans.

    But thematically, it’s important because we all think of something like New Orleans as “permanent,” and the truth is, nothing is permanent. Not Benjamin Button. Not New Orleans. Nothing. Just as time washed him away, although not in the same way it does for all of us, Katrina could wash away an entire city, a piece of what America is. I think the film’s only real thematic point is that “nothing lasts,” and the bookends underscore that in a way that is immediate to us now, but that will still make sense whenever people discover the film.

    My take on it, anyway.

    And I dunno if I really see a throughline on these posters. Fincher isn’t the first guy to sell a movie on a face, and with the “Facebook” movie, it’s kind of a natural and brilliant summation to just use a portrait of Zuckerberg.

  19. Drew – that’s a fair read. I’m sure that was their intent and that, on paper, it makes some sense.

    The problem is, that only explains the last one. Okay, you need the first one to set up the last one, sure. But what you just wrote in no way explains repeatedly cutting back to the hospital and using the storm solely as a source of tension. By doing that, for me, the potential power of the Katrina thread at the ending had already been dulled, if not lost entirely.

    “that will still make sense whenever people discover the film.”

    As a whole separate thing, I wonder if that’s true. Will Katrina really resonate in 20 years? Mind you, I’m only being cynical when I don’t think it will. I certainly think it *should*.

  20. Although, now that you mention it, that certainly could tie in with my main problem with the movie, in that “Nothing lasts” is such a generic theme and could be grafted on to almost any story. It doesn’t seem particularly connected to the central idea of a man aging backwards.

  21. Settle in for a WHOPPER of a generalization that I’m been mulling over all night. It’s not aimed at anybody in this thread, or anybody I’ve been venting about like a tool lately, or anything. It’s just what it is: a generalization, meaning (in the words of Tom Leykis) it’s GENERALLY TRUE:

    The dominant “movie blog” film voices of the Internet era, both critics and commenters, tend to be young, male, white, and fanboy. Hence, a lot of them don’t “get” ELEGIAC. Or sentimental. Or movies about loss, aging, passage of time, regret, ennui, mid-life crises, etc.

    It’s why there seems to be an especially harsh “backlash” that follows movies like BENJAMIN BUTTON, or UP IN THE AIR, or some of the Alexander Payne stuff…. The first round of critical voices singing the praises of such things are the older, wiser, established old media guys, most of whom have lived a lifetime and totally relate to George Clooney’s plight as a middle-aged wandering soul who never settled down; Or Jack Nicholson wandering Middle America on his own for the first time, a man out of time; Or Clint Eastwood in any number of ruminations on age and masculinity and other such serious undercurrents….

    My *general* feeling is a lot of the too-cool-for-school hipster critics don’t relate to the above any more than they do a new Tyler Perry movie, or any more than comic book fanboys do to the Notorious BIG movie… If you’re a hotshot blog writer in Silver Lake, or West Hollywood, or Brooklyn, or the Village, the concerns of how Jack Nicholson orders two scoops of once-forbidden ice cream at a Dairy Queen probably doesn’t hit you in the gut as some recognizable, relatable portrait of old-man loneliness and integrity… You’re too busy running around with your “cool” posse of likeminded thrift-store hipsters in Weezer glasses, feeling emboldened and immortal, your super-leftist “shock” politics and ironic detachment in full effect. Couple that with the fact that most “hipster” types ended up in NYC or LA to escape from a standard, privileged suburban upbringing in “flyover,” and you can multiply the contempt for the concerns of “everyday folk” just living a life, either in the real or on film.

    So something like Clint or Button or About Schmidt… or Kevin Costner (or insert other earnest rumination on aging or Middle American normality) becomes an avoid-or mock at-all cost proposition when the critical voice has the sociopathic feeling of youthful immortality in their corner… It’s easier to praise kitsch horror and B-movies (usually for their sociopolitical content, a tiresome holdover from classical film school theory), or movies that are overtly critical of the status quo. And especially when these guys are age, oh, 25-40 and grew up positively DRENCHED in tiresome irony where everything’s a big old joke and nothing can be taken seriously. It’s times like this I almost cherish the voices of old stick-in-the-muds like Maltin or Turan, because you sense they’ve lived a life and can relate to the plight of fully formed characters, whereas too many “new” writers, I just picture them detached in the back row sighing and grumbling with their slacker-douche posse of rich kids feigning poverty and oppression, unable to process serious subjects with the intensity they demand.

  22. Lex – I do think you make a fair generalization. But you should take it one step further. Everybody exists on a continuum, so far as it goes. There are extreme cases, people who absolutely can’t appreciate it no matter how well done it is, and there are extreme cases on the other end, people who love it no matter what. [This is an easier concept to explain with a more easily defined genre like "horror", but I think it applies equally to any "type" of movie.]

    For me, I think that I generally like the sort of thing that you’re talking about. I’m not even ready to argue it was all that poorly done in that sense. It’s just that, for me, all of that stuff seemed entirely unconnected to the premise of the movie. I would basically sum it up as, the concept of the movie was “This is the specific way in which Benjamin Button is different from everybody” and the execution (other than the make-up and Pitt’s performance) focused entirely on the way that his life was like everybody else’s. It was the same plot as any tragic romantic melodrama, until the penultimate scene, when older-Cate deals with Baby Brad.

  23. I saw Benjamin Button on my honeymoon, and I do believe that that contributed heavily to me being so moved by it. And I was very moved.

    I’ve always had in the back of my mind the notion that one’s wife or life partner or whatever it’s called nowadays has, as part of their role in one’s life, to deal with sharing death.

    I will watch my wife die, or she will watch me die. It’s not a notion, it is, all things being equal, inevitable. That is such a primal, potent feeling, that it’s most often simply difficult to even consider, and when I do, I must twist it around to be thankful that at least they or I won’t be alone.

    To watch someone you’ve loved succumb to the ravages of time, for them to loose all sense of themselves, for them to loose all control of their faculties, but to hold onto the central core of their being, the memory of who you still love, is brilliantly captured by Button’s reverse chronology, and this film in general. I love this film, and am in no way ashamed to admit it.

    Plus it’s Fincher, so it’s beautifully designed and drop dead gorgeous to look at, and feels full and mature and thought through.

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