There's far less to this movie than meets the eye. What meets the eye is the special effects, which are remarkable. The rest of the movie ranges from inconsistent to incoherent.
It's very loosely based on a short story, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," by F. Scott Fitzgerald - an insignificant story by an insignificant writer with an overblown reputation. The movie uses the basic idea, a man born old and growing ever younger until he becomes a newborn and dies, and blows it up into an interminable and pointless 150 hours of nonsense. The title character is played by Brad Pitt, a curious choice for a serious role. The movie is heavy with symbols that don't symbolize anything, presumably so that a certain type of moviegoer will feel that he's seen something significant. For example, the opening scenes involve a clock that was deliberately made so that it runs backward. But that has no connection to the backward-living Benjamin Button. Absurdly, it remains the main clock in a busy urban train station. The story is set in New Orleans and ends during Hurricane Katrina, which is a gratuitous and irrelevant bit of business, used apparently so that we can see the flood waters engulfing the clock, now stored in a warehouse, and causing it to start running backward again - an event which also plays no part in the story but which looks, like, heavy, man.
The movie would have been improved if half of it had been edited out. For example, there's a loooong section in which Benjamin, serving in the crew of a tugboat, goes to the Soviet Union in the very early days of World War II. There he has an affair with the aristocratic wife of a British trade official. Benjamin tells us that the man is also a spy. He knows this, but the Soviet secret police apparently don't. Nor do the secret police notice that the Yank and the Brit are coupling in the hotel and roaming the streets at night. The two are all alone, both in the streets and the lobby and bar and kitchen of the crowded hotel at night. Russia is at war, but the onscreen Russians don't seem particularly upset. Other than letting us see the Englishwoman, decades later, fulfilling her girlhood dream of swimming the English Channel, this entire section serves no purpose beyond pulling us out of our already tenuous suspension of disbelief.
Inconsistencies abound. When Daisy, the Cate Blanchett character, is hit by a car and severely injured in Paris, Benjamin is told about it and rushes to her side. But he is able to tell us, the audience, all about the curious and unlikely sequence of events that led to the girl and the car being at the same point at the same time. How does he know? Why is that used to pad an already long movie? When Daisy is old and dying (during Katrina! thunder! lightning! heavy rain!) in a hospital, her daughter, reading Benjamin's diary and looking at her mother's press clippings from before the car accident, is astonished to learn that Daisy was once a famous ballerina. "You never told me you danced!" the daughter says. Yet there's a scene in which the daughter, aged 11, is in her mother's dance studio, where Daisy teaches girls to do what she can no longer do. It's not believable that she would not have pictures and newspaper articles on the studio walls from her days of ballerina fame. Of course the daughter would know about that aspect of her mother's life.
This is a script written in pieces by different people, from a checklist, without the writers communicating with each other, and with impressive special effects used to distract us from the inconsistencies and shallowness and pointlessness of the story.
Blanchett overacts embarrassingly, making one wonder if her remarkable performance in the first Elizabeth movie was a fluke. Pitt shows that he can indeed act, as long as the part is monotone and undemanding. The supporting cast would be good and convincing if they were appearing in a high-school play.
Rating: 2 blisters out of 10, for the special effects.