The Age of Adaline

The Age of Adaline photo starrating-4stars.jpgNo genre receives less respect in the 21st century than romance. Even the once maligned horror gets more critical acclaim. And woe unto the film that eschews the comedy and dares to simply be a sentimental drama. Writer Nicholas Sparks has had box office success in this area with adaptations of his novels like Dear John and Safe Haven. But those treacly tearjerkers prove my point. Audiences may flock to them but critics hate them. Occasionally an exception will attempt a more elevated take. The Theory of Everything is a good example. The Stephen Hawking biopic was a bona fide romance that actually received some recognition. But even that had a vociferous minority of detractors. Heck Best Picture winner Titanic is often unjustly maligned now. It wasn’t always this way. Roman Holiday (1953) and An Affair to Remember (1957) are great examples of unabashed emotion. Critics still adore those films. Perhaps the idea of an earnest love story almost seems regressive in our current era. Tenderness must be presented with sarcasm or artifice for it to be believable apparently. Into this climate comes The Age of Adaline. This heartfelt romance is a real throwback. It won’t get respect, but it should.

Lee Toland Krieger directs a cheerfully old fashioned tale that hearkens back to love stories of pre-1965 cinema. It stars a stunning Blake Lively as a perpetually 29 year old woman. She was born on New Year’s Day 1908. She originally had a normal life. She fell in love, got married, had a child. She became a widow when her husband suffered a tragedy during the building of the Golden Gate Bridge. Then one night a snowfall in Sonoma County leads to a freak accident that causes her to stop aging. A talkative narrator explains how it scientifically happened with hypothermia and lightning. Yes it’s absurd. But if you openly accept the powers of every Marvel superhero and you can’t even wrap your head around this little conceit, then you are clearly a walking contradiction.

One would think staying forever young would be a blessing. However Adaline is apprehended by the FBI so they can study her abnormality. So she decides to escape. Every ten years she creates a new identity and a new life. This goes on for eight decades to our modern day. Only her aging daughter (Ellen Burstyn) knows her secret.  This gives the production an excuse to outfit our heroine in a variety of hairstyles and costume changes to reflect the times. This is a gorgeous looking film. Let’s just say chief hair stylist Anne Carroll, head of makeup Monica Huppert and costume designer Angus Strathie are major assets. Ditto composer Rob Simonsen whose luscious score further gives the atmosphere an exquisite sophistication. Adaline doesn’t physically age although her fashion most assuredly does.

All the style of this fantasy wouldn’t mean a thing if we didn’t care about the characters. In order to be captivated by a romance, we too must fall in love with the people. Blake Lively is a vision. Her film choices have been spotty (Green Lantern, Savages) but she negates any lingering doubts in her acting ability here. The script allows her to casually deliver some very witty one-liners that poke fun at the way she transcends time. There is a subtle aristocratic air about her that appropriates the refinement of say a Katharine Hepburn. Perhaps I go too far, but it’s a quality I rarely see in modern movies so I’ll stand by the comparison. Her beau is Ellis (Charlie Huisman) to whom she introduces herself as Jenny on New Year’s Eve 2014. With his beard and ‘stache he looks kind of like a mid-70s era Kris Kristofferson. Huisman has undeniable chemistry with Lively. He pursues her with the single-minded passion of a man in love. They’re appealing together but the saga’s greatest moment is the late in the narrative introduction of Harrison Ford in a small but pivotal role. His emotionally powerful performance carefully straddles the line between contentment and regret. Ford gives his greatest performance of the last two decades in film and one of the best of his entire career. The Age of Adaline is such a delicate little unsung movie, I almost passed it over. I only hope other people are willing to give it a chance.

05-07-15

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25 Responses to “The Age of Adaline”

  1. I’ll definitely be checking this film out in the near future. The recently cancelled television show, “Forever,” had a very similar plot and I was really into that show. Not the biggest modern romance fan, but there will be one every now and then that is superb to watch. Hoping “The Age of Adaline” will one of those superb ones to watch.

  2. I’m so glad I finally saw this. I fell in love with Blake Lively. She was mesmerizing in every scene. I laughed and cried during this movie. Definitely one of my tops so far. I too wish more people would see this 4 1/2 stars

  3. GaryGreg828 Says:

    I am yet to see Blake Lively in anything I thought she was good in, or stood out – not saying she’s a bad actress; I just don’t like her much. I will give this one a chance, though. Maybe this will be the first role of her’s that I like. The story sounds like it could be interesting. Hard to believe “Age of Adaline” turned out to be greater than “Age of Ultron”. lol.

    • Ah yes, that is an interesting comparison.

      I think Lively’s greatest fame is from the TV teen drama Gossip Girl but she was in Ben Affleck’s The Town. That was quite good.

  4. smilingldsgirl Says:

    I thought this was fine. The narration was awful and I felt it tried to take the magic out of the story which was a real buzz kill. But all the performances are good and I thought Lively and the guy had good chemistry. Sometimes movies are just ok- not terrible, not masterpieces and that’s all right. This was such a movie. If it was on cable I’d give it another watch.

    • I agree the narration is a bit ridiculous as it jumps though hoops to justify the science behind her condition. That could’ve been handled better. But I do like the atmosphere of the picture. It’s quite lavish.

  5. Great review. You’ve completely changed my mind on this one. I had dismissed it as a Nicholas Sparks-type film.

  6. A goofy premise, but one that has such a delicate and humane touch, that it actually worked. Nice review Mark.

  7. You had me at ‘Roman Holiday’, that’s my all time favourite movie, and Audrey Hepburn, my all time favourite star.
    The premise of this movie reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, one of favourite pieces of literature.
    And the fact you’ve mentioned this is Ford’s best work in his entire career. Hmmm !!! I have to check it out.
    Otherwise am not such a fan of Nicholas Sparks.
    But I do love a really good, unique, tearjerker, love story – like Casablanca, Roman Holiday, Love Story, The Way We Were, etc etc….
    And am a fan of great romantic comedies – like It Happened One Night, Ariane – Love in The Afternoon, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Annie Hall, When Harry met Sally …., Notting Hill, Prime, et al.

    • Author Nicholas Sparks has nothing to to do with this film. I only mentioned him because he has had success in the romance genre. The Age of Adaline is not based on a book, but is instead a completely original screenplay by J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz.

  8. cool post bro,.. keep it up, love dis movie, pls kindly checkout my movie blog on http://www.skyliveng.com

  9. Excellent review. The film has a few hiccups with the pseudo-science and the narration, I think, but they’re minor. Lively is a revelation. Well worth viewing in the theater.

  10. just saw this and really loved it. great review Mark!

  11. As you say, most critics pass over romances, and admittedly I was ready to do that with Age of Adaline. In the past I haven’t been a big fan of Blake Lively either, but your praise for her performance coupled with praise from another colleague have convinced me that I should see it.

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