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Saturday, June 6, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Curiously, ‘Benjamin Button’ plays it too safe

Brad Pitt stars in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Paramount Pictures (Paramount Pictures / The Spokesman-Review)
Brad Pitt stars in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Paramount Pictures (Paramount Pictures / The Spokesman-Review)
By The Washington Post

‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’

Brad Pitt plays the title character, who is born in 1918 as an elderly man, then ages backward through the cataclysmic changes of the 20th century.

Button is a naif, passively moving through the world and meeting colorful characters who continually amaze him and – what else? – teach him how to live. Meanwhile, he nurtures a lifelong love for Daisy, played by Cate Blanchett at her most ethereally beautiful.

Much of the narrative tension derives from watching Pitt drastically alter his appearance, going from a wizened, hunched “E.T.”-like creature to a young man at the height of ripe handsomeness. The movie, directed with a firm hand by David Fincher, is often astonishingly beautiful, but it plays too safe when it should be letting its freak flag fly.

The two-disc edition contains commentary with Fincher and a four-part making-of documentary. (2:45; rated PG-13 for brief war violence, sexual content, profanity and smoking)

‘Last Chance Harvey’

This quiet romantic comedy takes a cinematic chestnut – two people meet fleetingly, spend time together and embark on a tentative romance until fate intervenes – and somehow infuses it with a sense of rue and regret that makes it seem new.

Dustin Hoffman plays the title character, a down-and-out New York-based jingle writer who travels to London for his daughter’s wedding. He’s even shot down by his own daughter, who chooses her stepfather to give her away. But when he meets Kate (Emma Thompson), a mutual recognition of souls transpires.

Thompson and Hoffman develop an easy, unforced chemistry, resulting in a touching portrait of that rarity in the movies: a recognizably human couple with recognizably human problems and quirks.

DVD extras include commentary with writer/director Joel Hopkins, Hoffman and Thompson, and a featurette. (1:39; rated PG-13 for brief strong profanity)

‘Wendy and Lucy’

This deliberately spartan tone poem of need and desperation stars Michelle Williams in a role that is one long moment.

Wendy is trying to make her way from Indiana to Alaska, because she has a vague promise of work in a fish-packing plant. When her Honda breaks down, she’s faced with repair bills she can’t pay.

She steals food for her dog, Lucy, and becomes the victim of a self-righteous store employee: “If a person can’t afford dog food, they shouldn’t have a dog!” Wendy later searches desperately for Lucy, who disappeared while she was under arrest.

Williams’ performance is nuanced and moving, but Wendy is ultimately anonymous, since we are provided almost nothing about her background. (1:20; rated R for vulgarity)

Also available: “Bones: Season 2,” “Chandni Chowk to China,” “Enchanted April,” “Higher Ground,” “Grin Without A Cat,” “Incendiary,” “Ivanhoe,” “Momma’s Man,” “Smother,” “Under the Bombs”

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