The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, this fanciful work of art has technical brilliance, masterful art direction and terrific acting. I am thoroughly impressed with Brad Pitt ("Babel," "Fight Club" and "Burn After Reading"), as his eponymous character is born a decrepit old man in a baby's body and commences to grow younger, day by day. His mother dies in childbirth and his grieving father, who instantly sees him as a monster, grabs him and runs to the river to drown him. He is thwarted by a policeman, so instead, he abandons the baby at a boarding house/nursing home run by Queenie, a childless black woman, wonderfully played by Taraji P. Henson ("Talk to Me" and "The Family That Preys"). Despite the shocking appearance of this "baby" she lovingly raises him amid elderly boarders who make him feel right at home.

One of the audience's favorite lines is spoken over and over by one of those boarders: "Did I ever tell you that I was struck by lightening? Seven times?" Eventually, you too, will laugh out loud in anticipation.

This a two hour, forty-five minute saga, so be prepared for ingenious computer generated imaging and inspired makeup, as Pitt's cleverly aged features occupy the wizened body even as it grows younger and younger. Although he was born baby-sized, as he learns to walk, talk, read, etc., he grows and his features evolve. He becomes a toddler, a pre-adolescent, and a teenager. At age six or seven, he meets the little girl next door, an audacious little thing who isn't repelled by his peculiar appearance. Naturally he falls head over heals in love. By the time he looks like a fairly mobile but elderly man, she is a blossoming teen. When he is very mature looking but really about eighteen, he goes to sea on a tugboat and she goes to New York to study ballet. While living in Russia, he has an affair with a married woman, played by Tilda Swinton ("Michael Clayton" and "Narnia").

The wonderful Cate Blanchett (one Oscar for "Elizabeth," "Babel" and "I'm Not There") has once again hidden her Australian accent, this time under a mild Southern one (most of the action takes place in New Orleans), and her faux ballet dancing is pretty convincing! The makeup throughout is amazing and great care was taken as Pitt's bald head gradually grows more hair, his wattle subtly becomes a double chin and later, in his beefcake shots, he is square-jawed and fit. Her reaction when she first sees him after their ages finally intersect, is delicious!

You become deeply involved in their story, their ups and downs, their hopes and dreams, their comedies and tragedies. Yes, there is a LOT of comedy in this fantasy...and that makes its poignancy even more affecting.