It’s an interesting premise, at least: The Age of Adaline examines the romantic history of a woman who hasn’t aged since the 1930s, remaining 29 years old forever.
The prospect of never aging is a prominent one in popular literature and film, explored in vampire fiction from Anne Rice to Stephenie Meyer, and in children’s works like Tuck Everlasting. But here’s one that examines a very specific aspect of immortality: romance.
Unfortunately, The Age of Adaline boils its interesting premise down to a very familiar scenario: the heroine must keep a secret that she cannot reveal to any suitor, making the prospect of long-term romance impossible.
The secret here is immortality, but really, it could be anything: she’s a murderer, she’s a man, she’s a robot. Anything to make the prospect of long-term romance all but impossible.
The only difference here is that the film spans more than 100 years, and includes some unbelievable contrivances to drive its storyline.
Adaline opens with a Magnolia-like intro the takes us from the birth of its titular character on New Year’s Day, 1908, to an accident that occurs 29 years later: as incredibly rare snow begins to fall in southern California, Adaline drives off a cliff, drowns in a lake, is magically brought back to life by a bolt of lightning, and presto! Immortal.
It’s said that audiences are willing to accept one (1) incredible element per film. The premise in Adaline is pretty silly, but OK, we’re willing to go with it.
Halfway through the film, however, there’s another incredible coincidence. And then at the end, another.
“It’s Magic!” Some might say. To the rest of us, the finale of the film is utterly ridiculous. The film has already used up its credibility brownie points.
Adaline, in any event, is played by the vibrant Blake Lively, who simply glows throughout the movie. The star of TV’s Gossip Girl hasn’t appeared on the big screen since 2012’s Savages, but this movie should propel her to stardom. She’s even younger than her perpetually 29-year-old character, but she conveys wisdom that matches Adaline’s 107 years.
The male romantic lead, meanwhile, is a bit of an issue: Dutch actor Michiel Huisman (who had bit parts in Wild and World War Z, and a larger role in the most recent season of Game of Thrones) is entirely bland as Ellis Jones, the man who falls in love with Adaline in the present day. To be fair, he has little to work with, and the film spends so little time on their relationship we half-expect it to go somewhere else by the finale.
But there’s a bonus here: a double dose of Harrison Ford, as Ellis’ father, who fell in love with Adaline in England 40 years ago. It was her mother, Adaline tells him when they meet, and Ford is great in various states of longing and puzzlement in the film’s midsection.
Then there’s Anthony Ingruber as the young Ellis in flashbacks, and his impersonation of a Han Solo-era Ford is so spot-on that I had to double-check that they didn’t use footage of a younger Ford, or somehow CGI de-age him. Nope: check out Ingruber’s impression of Ford on YouTube, which probably got him this gig, and hey Hollywood, cast this guy as a young Han Solo in future Star Wars prequels.
Another casting bonus: watching Ellen Burstyn play Lively’s daughter, the only one who knows her mother’s secret. By the end, I wish the film had focused more on their relationship.
Adaline is well put-together by director Lee Toland Krieger (The Vicious Kind), beautifully shot (especially in flashbacks) by David Lanzenberg, and holds a genuine affection for both its characters and the city of San Francisco, which is featured prominently throughout.
In the end, however, the script by J. Mills Goodloe & Salvador Paskowitz is just too silly to take seriously. Still, if you liked similar sci-fi-themed romances like The Time Traveller’s Wife or About Time, you’re likely to find some value in this one, too.