Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Stars: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Kathy Baker, Ellen Burstyn, Cara Richardson, Anada Crew, Richard Harmon.
Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively, from the tv series Gossip Girl, etc) is 29. Adaline Bowman has been 29 for the past seven decades. Unlike Dorian Grey though who had an oil painting in the attic growing old and decrepit while he retained his youth and vigour, Adaline’s unchanging age is the result of a more scientific incident. During an unusual snowfall late one night Adaline’s car skidded off the road and into San Francisco Bay. Adaline drowned temporarily, until a large bolt of lightning struck her. The electrical charge that coursed through her body not only resuscitated her, but it somehow affected her metabolism, freezing her age for ever. Adaline is to all intents and purposes immortal.
But this gift of eternal youth poses plenty of other problems. To avoid explanations and disbelief of friends, she is unable to sustain any meaningful or long term relationships. Every few years she moves to a new city or country and assumes a new identity, which means she has lived a fairly solitary existence. And she has to watch her own daughter Flemming age, until she could pass as her grandmother.
When we first meet Adaline she has just returned to her beloved San Francisco after a lengthy absence, and she has assumed a new alias. Now known as Jennifer, Adaline takes up work with a historical society library. And at a lavish New Year’s Eve Ball she meets Ellis (Dutch actor Michiel Huisman, from Game Of Thrones, Orphan Black, etc), a wealthy philanthropist who falls in love with her. The relationship develops, and Adaline is confused by her own emotional connection to Ellis. But just as Adaline is considering another move she meets someone from her past,which has dramatic consequences and changes the course of her life forever.
This strange romantic drama was written by J Mills Goodloe (who adapted Nicholas Sparks’s The Best Of Me for the screen) and Salvador Paskowitz, and they put a feminine perspective on the problem of eternal youth. They avoid the easy temptation to make Adaline’s extraordinary circumstances a Forrest Gump-like trawl through some of the key moments and personalities of the twentieth century. But this is still a flawed production. The early scenes establishing Adaline’s history are a bit clunky, and much of the romance between Adaline and Ellis is, frankly, a little dull and dreary. And Hugh Ross’ voice over narration is at times a little ponderous and quite silly.
Director Lee Toland Krieger (the quirky and acid tongued romance Celeste & Jesse Forever, etc) handles the fantastical material slickly enough, exploring both the negative and positive ramifications of Adaline’s predicament. He brings a nice melancholy tone to the material as well. Krieger also incorporates some archival newsreel footage of early San Francisco (particularly of the 1906 earthquake that level the city and the building of the Golden Gate Bridge) to add some atmosphere and colour to Adaline’s backstory.
Technical credits are all excellent. And Oscar winning composer Rob Simonsen’s lush orchestral score adds to the emotional weight of the film.
We haven’t seen much of Lively on the big screen, but she makes the most of her biggest role to date, finding reserves of strength for her character, but also capturing her sense of loss and regret at missed opportunities. Lively also manages to change her look and appearance regularly but she maintains her personality. She is on screen for most of the duration of the film, and she holds our attention in a role originally intended for Natalie Portman.
Despite his hunky presence Huisman however is a bit bland as Ellis. Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn makes the most of her role as the elderly Flemming, who passes on some wise, motherly advice about love and relationships to her own daughter. Unfortunately it is a rather underdeveloped role given the interesting circumstances. Harrison Ford has grown too old now to play the action heroes of his heyday, and he seems content to settle into more character roles now. He brings a touch of gravitas and history, but also a hint of vulnerability and raw emotions to his performance as Ellis’ father, a respected scientist and philanthropist in his own right. It is a role that suits the aging Ford perfectly.
The central concept behind The Age Of Adaline requires a healthy suspension of disbelief, but audiences who willingly went along with David Fincher’s The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, which saw Brad Pitt age in reverse, will certainly find a bit to enjoy here.