Old age, Mr. Bernstein said in Citizen Kane, is the only disease you don't look forward to being cured of. Not so Benjamin Button, who was born an old man and got younger each day for the rest of his long life. As the hero of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1922 short story, he was a comic-pathetic figure whose reverse internal clock set him up for a string of triumphs and gaffes. As played by Brad Pitt in the sprawling, enthralling movie version directed by David Fincher (Se7en, Zodiac), this New Orleans native is a fellow of sweet disposition who mostly goes where chance propels him on a tugboat to Russia, for example, where he sees World War II duty and enjoys a touching tryst with a lonely woman (Tilda Swinton).
He does have one grand passion: Daisy (Cate Blanchett), whom he meets when she's a child and connects with as their lives unfold in opposite directions. The screenwriter, Eric Roth, also wrote the Forrest Gump film, which leaned as heavily on computer effects as this one does; Pitt plays almost the entire life of Benjamin. But here the CGI magic elegantly serves the poignant fable of a displaced soul whose unique infirmity opens a window onto our common mortality, where the very young and the very old are similarly dependent and the years in between are a precious gift. 12/25
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