Movie Review: The Age of Adaline

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(l to r) Ellen Burstyn and Blake Lively in “The Age of Adaline”
Photo Credit: Diyah Pera

In The Age of Adaline, can a woman find happiness with a man who is 75 years her junior? And will we ultimately care?

By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)

The Age of Adaline is indeed a romantic drama. But the romance that captivates most is the one between the camera and the sparkling city of San Francisco. Followed by the touching relationship between the eternally 29-year-old Adaline (Blake Lively) and her now 80-year-old daughter, Ellen Burstyn’s Flemming. Coming up an anemic third, we get the deep stares and sighs shared between Adaline and her love-at-first-sight suitor, the exceedingly rich philanthropist Ellis (Michiel Huisman).

Nicholas Sparks may want to sue for plagiarism.

The Age of Adaline opens with a protracted voiceover by an unseen narrator. After he gives us thumbnail sketches about Adaline’s first few decades on the planet, including her whirlwind courtship, marriage, motherhood and the early death of her husband, the narrator goes into great length about how fate and nature conspired to whip up a crazy quilt of a freak snow storm, a car crash, lightning and hypothermia, all of which resulted in freezing Adaline’s aging process at the age of 29. (Note: Long expository voiceovers are usually a clue that the screenwriters are either lazy, somewhat untalented, or that the production budget couldn’t afford the extra bucks it would take to show, rather than tell.) The narrator delivers yet another rambling voiceover near the end, telling us exactly what we’ve just seen. Call it unnecessary or, worse, an insult to the intelligence of the audience.

Back to our heroine’s improbable story: When, during the early 50s, the police and the FBI grew suspicious that the age reflected on Adaline’s driver license didn’t correlate with a woman who looked two decades younger, Adaline realized she’d have to protect herself by taking on new identities and residences every decade. That said, if today’s lawmen were tasked with the job of locking up every woman who appeared 20 years younger than her chronological age, who would be left to take down the bad guys?

“911, what’s your emergency?”
“A vicious gang of thugs armed with AK-47s are killing children in the street.”
“Sorry, ma’am. We’ve just been flooded with another wave of suspiciously young ladies and until we can sort it all out, you’re going to have to wait.”

The mystery is not in Adaline’s agelessness but more to the fact that the woman never gains a pound, never experiences any severe accidents and, even in the depths of her beautiful despair, never considers throwing herself off the Golden Gate Bridge. (She may be ageless, but she isn’t free from physical injury, as depicted in a scene when her then-doctor boyfriend has to stitch up a deep cut in her hand. The scar fades, but will always remain.) In this beauty-obsessed culture, look for Adaline to become the apotheosis of womanly perfection.

However, when she meets Mr. Wonderful, Adaline would love to kick-start her clock. If only she knew how.

(l to r) Harrison Ford, Kathy Baker, Amanda Crew, Blake Lively
Photo Credit: Diyah Pera

Since there is no subplot in The Age of Adaline, writers J. Mills Goodloe (who, no surprise, adapted the film The Best of Me from a Nicholas Sparks book of the same name) and Salvador Paskowitz create a faux entanglement when Adaline, currently calling herself Jenny, visits Ellis’ parents on the occasion of their anniversary. Harrison Ford, as Ellis’ googly-eyed dad, knows immediately that Adaline is his own long-lost love.

OK, let’s take a moment here. No one, including Dad, Adaline, nor Junior (who can’t help but figure it out) has a problem with the fact that Adaline has had intimate relations with both father and son? No one flinches? It’s an “ick” factor that could have easily been solved if her earlier lover had been a family friend, an uncle twice-removed, or the nosy neighbor next door. But dear old Dad? That’s just odd.

Michiel Huisman as Ellis, Blake Lively as Adaline
Photo Credit: Diyah Pera

More conundrums abound: How is it that Adaline appears to be a savant, extraordinarily knowledgeable about each and every minutiae of history since her life began? (My grandmother, who lived to be 100, was a fairly sharp woman … and even though she, too, experienced 5 decades, she was no Stephen Hawking.) In some of the early scenes, our heroine comes off as Sherlock Holmes incarnate, picking up on small personal clues that would usually escape notice. Additionally, she’s got a hot foot whenever she drives. Ergo: Adaline is an 107-year-old mash-up of Hawking, Holmes and Mario Andretti, all dressed up in Gucci with nowhere to go. What a fascinating character the screenwriters never bothered to develop. And Lively, who does her best to be, um, lively, is saddled with the character of a sad-faced young woman who sports a decided lack of personality.

As for the man who would shake up Adaline’s world, erasing her fear of committing to an improbable relationship, Huisman’s Ellis is a handsome fellow with a nice smile and a killer set of abs … but devoid of any true spark. As written and directed, the upside is that these two characters are made for each other.

Director Lee Toland Krieger has created a very pretty production, awash with alluring colors and stunning locations. While The Age of Adaline is lovely to look at, we had made the choice to go to the movie house over the museum. We didn’t want mere pictures … we wanted moving pictures. And that makes all the difference.

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Rating on a scale of 5 women of a certain age: 2.5

The trailer for The Age of Adaline:

The Age of Adaline
Release date: April 24, 2015
Directed by: Lee Toland Krieger
Screenplay by: J. Mills Goodloe & Salvador Paskowitz
Cast: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Ellen Burstyn, Harrison Ford, Kathy Baker
Running Time: 113 minutes
Rating: PG-13

About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 500+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/kimberly-gadette/). Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.

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