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Monday, Dec. 29, 2008

A Curious Case of F. Scott Fitzgerald

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We crawl into the world on all fours and-unless cut short-exit life with the aid of a cane. Aging normally begins in infancy and ends in old age, unless your name is Benjamin Button. Reversing the natural order, he was born an old man and died as a baby.

Director David Fincher (Seven) freely adapted The CuriousCase of Benjamin Button from F. Scott Fitzgerald's dark if humorous meditation on the life cycle. Inflating 15 pages into a nearly three-hour movie, Fincher and writer Eric Roth fail to transform a snappy short story into a compelling historical epic encompassing most of the last century.

The technical achievement, assisted by computer imaging, is remarkable as the wizened old infant grows gradually younger and comes to resemble the film's star, Brad Pitt. Pitt begins to look like an ailing Warren Zevon as Benjamin winds through middle age, and settles into a virile Paul Newman impression as he ages into youth. Cate Blanchett plays the love of Benjamin's life, an elfin dancer for Balanchine, whose tragic fate is to get old while he can only get younger.

Aside from sluggish pacing and improbabilities that have nothing to do with suspending disbelief over the premise, sympathy comes hard for the protagonists in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Pitt and Blanchett give attractive performances but little reason to care about their characters.