(In theaters, February 2009) Every crop of Oscars contenders includes overlong weepy dramas, and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button is 2008’s entry in the sweepstakes. Based around the fantastical premise of a man aging backwards, the film feels free to explore issues about youth, aging, living and dying. With intentions like those, you won’t be surprised to find out that the end of the story is solid weeping time, the film sparing no effort in lining up every single piece of symbolism it has accumulated during its considerable length. From the first few moments, it’s obvious that this film goes from scope and length rather than any single conception of narrative efficiency: The scenes drag on with unrelenting digressions, bit players, slow accents and separate set-pieces. This is a life epic told as watered-down fable (Fans of Big Fish will find something familiar in Benjamin Button‘s off-beat sweep through the twentieth century), a mode that will charm certain viewers and leave others riffing on the melodramatic weight of the film’s every moments. For some, the irony will be that the film comes from director David Fincher almost ten years after the hyper-aggressive Fight Club: the technical polish of the film is just as considerable, but the narrative style is almost half as dense. There’s something admirable in the way the film so obviously reaches for tears in its final thirty seconds, even when the manipulation is all perfectly obvious. Acting-wise, there’s little to say except for Brad Pitt’s measured performance through the ages, and the able supporting work from a diverse cast. Don’t be surprised that the film plays better at home, with ample leisure time, than in the cramped seats of a movie theater.