The Curious Case of Benjamin Button >>> Review

Wistful, melancholic, steeped in a sense of impermanence and looming mortality, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is not a movie one could have predicted from the maker of "Se7en," "Fight Club" and "Zodiac." David Fincher's haunting and uneven picaresque fable is a radical reimagining of a fanciful, minor F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. It tells the tall tale of an infant who is born as an old man—tiny but suffering all the infirmities of an 80-year-old—who lives his life in reverse, becoming younger with each passing year until he achieves real infancy at the end of his life. Benjamin (Brad Pitt) gets his last name from his button-manufacturing father (Jason Flemyng) who, horrified by the sight of his bizarre baby, abandons him on the steps of a New Orleans old-age home, where he is raised by the loving black employee Queenie (Taraji P. Henson).
He may only be a toddler, but he feels right at home among the old folks, being a balding child who wears glasses and is confined to a wheelchair. At this stage of the story it's only Pitt's heavily made-up head we're seeing (digitally imposed on other bodies); it will be a while before he begins to resemble the matinee idol we know.
Pitt's Benjamin, with a lazy Southern accent, narrates this two-hour-and-40-minute tale. If his ruminations evoke distant echoes of "Forrest Gump" it's because Eric Roth wrote both screenplays.
"Button" is, among other things, a love story, but it's in no hurry to let you know it. Indeed, for more than an hour—from the end of World War I to the outbreak of World War II—Fincher meanders without ever achieving total traction. He keeps returning to the present-day, less-than-inspired framing device in which an old woman, dying in a New Orleans hospital as Hurricane Katrina approaches, listens to her daughter (Julia Ormond) read Benjamin's journals.