Who’s In It: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Julia Ormond, Taraji P. Henson, Elias Koteas, Jason Flemyng, Jared Harris
The Basics: A somewhat-realistically-Southern-accented Brad Pitt embodies everyone's fears of death and ages backwards throughout the 20th century--and you spend the first chunk of the movie waiting for the makeup people (or the tech people or whoever was responsible) to peel off the old-age wrinkles so he looks like himself--as the love of his life, Cate Blanchett, ages forward like a normal person. They meet in the middle and have movie star sex, Cate has his baby and then he eventually winds up as a 10 year-old with dementia. If you’re an easy crier you might bring some tissue. Merry Christmas everybody! It’s this or Nazis!
What’s The Deal: I would say that I liked this better when it was called Forrest Gump (same screenwriter, borrowing from his own material) but I can’t. Because it really is exactly like Forrest Gump in many annoying ways. He has a funny name, he travels the world, he meets famous people, he's out of sync with the rest of the human population due to his odd condition, he even has a surrogate mom in Taraji P. Henson who delivers handy “box of chocolates”-style aphorisms about life and how unpredictable it is. And the only reason I can’t say I liked it better when Tom Hanks did it is because I hated it when Tom Hanks did it. Meaning that everything else here—the actors, Fincher’s meticulous direction and low-temperature refusal to go emotionally haywire, the impeccable look—is great and wants you to experience it.
How It’s Also Like Little Man: Because Fincher loves things to look amazing, he’s got the latest version of whatever digital advance it is that allows you to graft the head of one actor onto the body of another. And it’s so seamless the only thing keeping you from thinking you really are looking at a kid version of a grandpa-like Brad Pitt is the fact that Pitt’s performance—he’s pretty much just a symbol of mortality, to be fair—is the least emotionally engaging one in the movie.
Hey, Look! There’s Tilda Swinton! Oh Wait, She’s Gone: Small role for the coolest actress on the planet. She shows up, has an affair with Pitt and then mostly disappears, which is how life is, I know, but if she’s in a movie she elevates it and you want her to stick around.
When To Go To The Bathroom During This Nearly-Three-Hour Movie: After Pitt and Blanchett do their thing in the 1960s. It’s not all downhill from there or anything, but you’ve gotten past the moment when they look their best together.