On screen, nothing is more absurd about this tale than its length, two and three-quarters hours, plenty long enough to read the Fitzgerald story five or six times over. And its wistful theme of transience frankly gains very little from the opposite-directions aging phenomenon, nowhere near as much as you’d want to gain from so mindbending a device. The theme, moreover, gains nothing at all from the movie’s feeling of interminability. Director David Fincher, determined to show his softer side, softer than Zodiac and Panic Room and Fight Club and so on, manages first and foremost to show his technical side. The movie is replete with proficiencies of production (the periods are lavishly detailed, the brief tugboat battle with an enemy sub in WWII is dazzling, the duplex love nest is a splendid locale, etc.), and it serves as a virtual showcase for the art of makeup and/or art of digital touch-up, digital airbrush, digital prestidigitation, whatever went into the various aging effects on Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. (The movie allots far less time to the end than to the beginning of the protagonist’s life, after Pitt bows out in favor of juvenile surrogates.) The seamless surgery by which the leading man’s head has been grafted onto bodies of different sizes is used, in this instance, responsibly. But it raises unsettling possibilities for the evolutionary next leap in screen body doubles. What’s to prevent another filmmaker from putting Brad Pitt’s head, in service of vanity, on Michael Phelps’s body? Cate Blanchett’s on Giselle Bündchen’s?
Bedtime Stories remains, as the saying goes, to be seen. Somehow I don’t anticipate that an Adam Sandler comedy will weigh heavily on the year’s scales.