Master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock once defined a great leading man as one who "can do nothing well." Well, star actor Brad Pitt does next to nothing in the almost three hours of the film, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and he does it very well.
As Benjamin Button, the man who ages backwards, Pitt carries the main part of the movie using the Robert Redford school of acting: He looks terrific in shots almost resembling freezeframes. God help him, if he were ugly. In fact, he is far more interesting when he is ugly as a wrinkly old-looking man-child in the film's first third. After reverse-aging into Brad Pitt Hollywood icon, the story noticeably sags, along with the sleepy heads in the audience.
Based on an 87-year-old sweet-satiric short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" owes little to the Jazz Age author and a lot to the film, "Forrest Gump," the screenplay of both being by Eric Roth.
The "Gump" script is actually a blueprint to the "Button" storyline. The main characters have a disability that sets them apart from "normal" folks. They are brought up by a woman who boards people in her big house. Both Gump and Button go to sea with a feisty colleague, where they learn the ways of the world. They both have a great love, to whom they write and repeatedly ask to come home. They both produce an offspring with that love, about whom they fear will share their disability. They both narrate their films. And on and on.
Yet, despite Roth's blatant theft of his prior screenplay, "Button" is an enriching fable with special makeup effects that will leave you spellbound. Not only are the Button-Pitt age processes amazing, but equally so are those enhancing Cate Blanchett, playing his love, Daisy, who is magically shown as a sublimely perfect ballet dancer and also in her elder years.
The aspect that rings true is the basic premise of the Fitzgerald parable, which is stated by Daisy, "We all start and end our lives in diapers." Does it really matter in which direction we age?