Life is short, etc, etc, etc…

Posted by · 4:48 pm · January 30th, 2009

Today’s Telegraph carries an interview with Brad Pitt that somehow manages to be simultaneously personal, honest and thoroughly unilluminating. There’s plenty of contented musing on fatherhood and Angelina Jolie if that’s your cup of tea, but I couldn’t help being somewhat disappointed by the banality of his take on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”:

“I walked away realising that time is short,” he says, talking on a sound stage at the Warner Bros studios in Burbank, California. “I don’t know if I have a day or 10 days or 10 years or 40 years. Am I halfway or am I close to the end? I don’t know, so I have to make sure I don’t waste those moments in any kind of pettiness or bitterness or laziness, and that I surround myself with the people who are most important to me.”

Further on, he lets loose with the stunning insight that the film is “about looking back on the significant moments in your life.” Well, I’ll be. I could have sworn Eric Roth had more than that in mind when he adapted F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story, but what do I know?

I’ve always liked Brad Pitt. A lot. He’s a strong actor — even if “Button” is a million miles from his best work on screen — and a smart, funny, charismatic celebrity. Or he used to be, at least. Why then, throughout the whole “Button” publicity run, has he restricted himself to such bland, humour-starved soundbites, both in print and on camera?

It’s clear he’s in a happy place personally right now, and that’s great for him. But am I the only one tiring of the relentless earnestness, and longing for a bit of movie-star dash from the man? Some are apparently counting on Pitt’s presence to “save” the Oscar telecast, but as long as he keeps following this script, I’d look elsewhere.

→ 29 Comments Tags: , | Filed in: Daily

29 responses so far

  • 1 1-30-2009 at 5:02 pm

    Ash said...

    I really don’t give a crap about the “Brangelina” phenomenon, but boy, they sure have sucked the life out of each other.

  • 2 1-30-2009 at 5:09 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    I hadn’t actually thought about Jolie, but that’s a good point. Remember what fun she used to be?

  • 3 1-30-2009 at 5:23 pm

    Kat said...

    Both Jolie and Pitt have to calm it down, similar to Politicians, they have to read from the script and keep it vague in order to avoid polarization. I think it helps both their careers, because the celebrity factor, as much as it is exciting for the masses to have movie stars, it can’t be good for long term success, not if you want to be seen as respectable actors and not tabloid trash.

  • 4 1-30-2009 at 6:06 pm

    Felix said...

    Yeah Jolie was a lot of fun 10 years ago when she was shooting heroin into her veins and snorting coke off Billy Bob’s ass. Fun like that had Robert Downey Jr. in and out of jail, waking up in the bed of a neighbor’s child, and playing russian roulette with the grim reaper. The same kind of fun played a part in Heath’s death.

    Brad spent his days smoking ganja, working on his tan lines, and filming masterpieces like Meet Joe Black. What we are seeing today from these two is what is commonly known as being grown ups.

  • 5 1-30-2009 at 6:16 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Kat and Felix: Sure, I was being a little facetious with reference to Jolie. But it’s possible to be dignified and still do sharp, witty publicity. George Clooney manages it like a pro.

    Pitt has just been dull in interviews lately. Ony my opinion, of course.

  • 6 1-30-2009 at 6:20 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Whatever, I’m not going to give him much flack. I thought he was beautifully understated and haunting in “Benjamin Button,” a film I deeply admire, although it is kind of bizarre to hear such an undercooked statement delivered by the star of the film.


  • 7 1-30-2009 at 6:34 pm

    Felix said...

    Guy, nothing wrong at all with your opinion, I just have a different one. Up until recently I would have agreed with you on Pitt’s interviews being dull. This season I think he’s opened up especially about how he viewed his work and his personal life in his 30s and where he’s headed. George Clooney for me is one who couldn’t give a straight answer if his life depended on it and relies on cracking jokes to 1) keep people at a distance and 2) keep people from realizing he’s not as smart as people give him credit for. I have nothing against Clooney but I can’t shake the feeling he’s not comfortable in his own skin, unlike Pitt, who is? Again only my opinion and I do appreciate yours.

  • 8 1-30-2009 at 6:40 pm

    Leone said...

    I thought Pitt’s quote was simple, eloquent and poignant. It’s exactly how I felt after I saw the film. The themes of the film ARE simple and personal to each viewer.

    Frankly, Guy, I think this post is rather mean spirited. Whatever you may think of Pitt and Jolie and their overpowering celebrity factor, the bottom line is that both of them have done a tremendous amount of great work both in front of and behind the camera. They’ve both used their celebrity for the greater good and give a hell of a lot back to the world around them.

  • 9 1-30-2009 at 6:42 pm

    RockMocha said...

    Fucking love the Michael Shannon ad at the top!

  • 10 1-30-2009 at 7:05 pm

    Chris said...

    Brad Pitt hasn’t seemed quite as… approachable? I guess that’s the word. Lately he hasn’t really seemed that way. He seems like the kind of guy who would get pissed off if you even recognized him in the public bathroom or something.

  • 11 1-30-2009 at 7:11 pm

    BurmaShave said...

    I’m finally reading INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. If Tarantino pulls it off, this could be Pitt’s Oscar role. Psychotic and hysterical.

  • 12 1-30-2009 at 7:36 pm

    Leone said...

    RockMocha – Agreed – I just saw it! That is an AWESOME ad and glad to see the studio supporting his nomination. that guy deserves to win. He was so unbelievably amazing in that film.

  • 13 1-30-2009 at 8:03 pm

    Patrick said...

    Guy: Glad someone finally brought this forward. These scripted generic platitudes are getting tiring. At least when you listen to Penn or Rourke you get honesty. When you listen to Langella or Jenkins you get humility. Enough with this celebrity crap already.

  • 14 1-30-2009 at 8:21 pm

    red_wine said...

    “the film is “about looking back on the significant moments in your life.” Well, I’ll be. I could have sworn Eric Roth made more than that in mind when he adapted F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story”

    No, he did have anything else in mind when he wrote the screenplay. The film is extremely slight & trivial & basically spends 150 million dollars and 3 hours and the entire premise of reverse aging to tell us something as banal as ‘live life in the moment’ & does not even tell it well.

    Brad Pitt is a smart man but I think he’s still ‘in character’ & playing Ben Button in real life too with all his sugary graciousness. Clooney is a real movie-star & while I agree that he never ever gives a straight answer, I think thats a desirable quality.

  • 15 1-30-2009 at 8:31 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Not a thing slight or trivial about it. It’s easily one of the best examinations of time, and its nature as it pertains to our living and our simultaneous need and dread of it, I’ve seen portrayed in such a way on screen or elsewhere.

    It’s whatever you take out of it. If you look at it wanting it to be slight and trivial, then there you go. But the supposed banality of “live life in the moment” is only a very small fraction of “Benjamin Button”‘s sprawling meditation. At least that’s what I got out of it. Such is art.

  • 16 1-30-2009 at 9:12 pm

    John Travolta said...

    The point is Brad seems happy with his life now, and like he said in the interview; content with the people around him.

  • 17 1-30-2009 at 9:18 pm

    red_wine said...

    Atleast The Reader was thought-provoking, but Button was thought-stifling. I was flitting about in my brain to lend some meaning or gravitas to the proceedings, but it seems nothing particularly was happening and nobody was doing anything.

    The entire movie seems unnecessary and un-required to me, I don’t know why the makers made the movie in the first place if they had nothing in particular to say. And by god I couldn’t even say its an entertaining film.

    Speaking English, the points you make about the film, they were things that you personally took away from the movie & your interpretation, you cannot honestly say that the film showcases those ideas and that was the film-makers intent. Infact Fincher’s interviews are even more infuriating because he has nothing deep or profound to say about the film, he just says trivial insignificant things.

    This movie really confused me. I thought that wow, they had spent 150 million dollars and developed really advanced technology and some people are actually crying in the theaters and all, so the film-makers definitely had something profound to say in this film, but I found nothing, I looked very hard and still couldn’t find anything. I still cannot see what the point of the film is because it does not explore reverse aging in an intellectual or coherent manner by any stretch of the imagination.

  • 18 1-30-2009 at 9:49 pm

    Speaking English said...

    That’s the thing, it’s more of a mood piece than anything. I can’t explain it to you, because it obviously didn’t work for you in terms of what you were looking for. Nothing wrong with that. It’s the kind of film that just sweeps you along and makes you feel intangible, abstract, profound things; unconsciously, subtly, cerebrally. I find the movie to be very meaningful and PACKED with insight, but if you don’t let the film absorb you in the kind of metaphysical way it does, then it’s just going to bounce off of you without an impact. Didn’t happen with many, clearly happened with others, but ultimately it’s unfair to say it has “nothing to say.”

  • 19 1-30-2009 at 10:05 pm

    Glenn said...

    Most of all, I miss Juliette Lewis.

  • 20 1-30-2009 at 10:09 pm

    sirio11 said...

    I just don’t get the hate for Pitt, “banality”?? give me a break; the level of cynicism nowadays is really scary.
    He deserves his Oscar nomination and ironically he’s a very underrated actor just because he’s a “celebrity”
    Felix said it very well, and I agree with every word in his posts.

  • 21 1-30-2009 at 11:41 pm

    PJ said...

    I get the feeling that acting and celebrity are just secondary to both their lives right now. And that doesn’t appear to be a bad thing at all.

  • 22 1-31-2009 at 4:15 am

    Mr. Gittes said...

    Thomas Jane is a stronger actor than Brad Pitt.

  • 23 1-31-2009 at 4:18 am

    Glenn said...

    I agree that Pitt deserves his Oscar nomination… if it was for “Burn After Reading”. As it stands, however, he does not. He’s done some good stuff before this nomination so many people were all “he’s only been nominated for Oscar ONCE??” and I’d also reply “what else should be have been nominated for?” Fight Club… probably, but that was never gonna happen anyway. Other than that he doesn’t exactly have Jack Nicholson’s resume, does he?

  • 24 1-31-2009 at 6:35 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    It’s not a very cool opinion, but I still think his best performance was in “A River Runs Through It,” where Robert Redford cannily cast the new model of himself, and directed him accordingly.

    But that film reduces me to a soggy pile of tears every time I see it, so I’m not entirely objective here.

  • 25 1-31-2009 at 10:09 am

    Kat said...

    Tapley, i see your point. Regarding George Clooney, his interviews are indeed always fun, witty, he oozes the charm we like to buy.

    I feel Benicio Del Torro deserves Pitt’s nomination.

    red_wine : I completely agree with you. I feel the film wasted so much potential. I mean, what an interesting point of view (growing backwards). What knowledge is retained with that unique point of view? What are the disadvantages, the perks? If you are not going to really use this premise, then what is the point?

    The 20th century moments were annoying and did not fit as well as Forest Gump. As chessy as Forest Gump was, at least i cared about the character, care so much that my eyes welled up when he asked Jenny if his son was “like him”.

    I didn’t feel a single thing until the very very end. Whenever a baby is dying, it gets pretty sad. I just wish i Knew benjamin button more so that i felt someone i know was passing away, you know. What about the rest of the film, the other 2 hours. It’s not fair now, i paid a full price for the ticket, i should be getting the whole pie.

    Now Zodiac is a mood film, with a real story, real purpose, characters with arcs and challenging experiences and everything. Watching Benjamin boating while the sun is setting is what? Watching Benjamin ride a bike, draw sitting next to the Taj Mahal…etc. Those montages were really annoying and pointless. They do not replace story, character development..etc. Button is a really beautiful film with no story.

    With it’s theme, which we are Told from the filmmakers/actors, is the “Life is Short..” usual theme. In the film, it should have been backed up.

    Even when you write something as simple as an essay, you state your thesis in the very first paragraph, then do nothing but back it up throughout the entire essay. You must convince the reader of your point of view, of your thesis.

    Say if life is all about loving people, loving your mother for instance, shouldn’t he have shown more emotion when she passed away? Talked about her at all to other people. Lament, reflect…something, anything. Even when she was alive, should they have had more discussion than “you never know what you’re gonna get..” My mother did so much more than give me cliche lines.

    When he hears she passed away, all he does is look at daisy with a perplexed expression. This does not reflect real life. This does not back up the film’s thesis. When a parent dies, it is devastating.

    Why does Daisy love Benjamin. Is he funny? Is he kind? What characteristics did she love about him? Does he understand her better than anyone else?

    When he sees his daughter for the first time…nothing. Has growing backwards robbed him of his ability to express emotion? If so, then Show this, explain this. So that we can at least understand why he is so passive. Writing hall mark postcards? That is suppose sum up the agony of living without your children? Isn’t this a parents worst nightmare?

    Remember when his mother’s husband/boyfriend was in the kitchen, and suddenly broke out in a monologue. Then mentioned Lincoln. That was awkward. He need a little more character development. One outburst is not enough. So when HE died, it also didn’t mean anything.

    In contrast, In Forest Gump, when Bubba died, it was extremely sad. We had come to know Where he is from, What he used to do, Why he was in the war…etc. When he died, it influenced the main character, Forest. It changed him, it taught him a lesson, it cost him a real friend. His first real friend. It moved the plot along (Forest coming into the shrimp business). and so on and so on. Life happens.

    The Vietnam war reference makes complete sense and is almost irrelevant. The point isn’t the Vietnam war itself, but the experience friendship, courage, and loss: Life. In Button, all the 20th century references are meaningless, because it doesn’t enhance the film or it’s characters in any way.

    In button, Nothing happens. Just really pretty photography and redundancy. Even the butterfly effect scenes were dull. I was thinking, just get it over with it. It takes real talent to make something as interesting as the Butterfly effect, or aging backwards, boring.

    Unfortunately, i found the film pointless and pretentious. Something really pretty without any substance. Pitt as well is closer to being that, than a character actor (an actor) like his peers (Benicio, Sean Penn, even Johnny Depp). I’m looking forward to Tarantino’s Bastard. I think Pitt is best with comic or outlandish roles, like Burn after reading and 12 monkeys.

    Alright, I’m done. sorry for the long rant :)

  • 26 1-31-2009 at 10:16 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Kat: That’s a really thoughtful comment, thanks. By the way, it’s me you’re replying to, not Kris.

  • 27 1-31-2009 at 12:17 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Nothing happens. Ha. People said that about “2001: A Space Odyssey” as well. Try reaching a bit deeper, past surface level. The film is jammed with the kind of introspective, metaphysical insight that defines the greatest pieces of art.

  • 28 1-31-2009 at 3:35 pm

    Patrick said...

    My favorite Pitt performance is in “Se7en.” 2nd favorite: “Fight Club.” Worst: “Button.”

  • 29 1-31-2009 at 7:06 pm

    Jules said...

    Aside from being grossly overexposed, Pitt and Jolie seem very pretentious and holier-than-thou and I’m not sure if it’s because they want matching Oscars and a Nobel Peace Prize or what. And when Pitt complained of not having any privacy in the “Newsweek” roundtable, I thought I was going to laugh up my morning coffee. This coming from a man who took very private photos of his lover nursing their infant and them having the photos published?