Family Movie Review: The Age of Adaline (PG-13)

TheAgeOfAdaline ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalhalf popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13          Length: 110 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 13+. The film is about a woman who stops aging and the romances she experiences; there are a couple of violent car crashes, a scene where a man gives a woman stitches, some kissing and implied sex scenes, with a couple waking up in bed together, a man shirtless coming out of the shower, some jokes and questions about sex, and some cursing.

Blake Lively is a steady presence through 'The Age of Adaline,' but the film's inability to sell its underdeveloped central love story makes it ultimately unconvincing.

By Roxana Hadadi

Blake Lively has never been a particularly great actress; look to "The Green Lantern" for proof of her limitations. She doesn't do panicked or frightened very well, and her greatest assets are her laugh and her beauty. In "The Age of Adaline," which is often shot like a very pretty fragrance ad starring a very pretty Lively, those qualities are front and center. But the film's failure is in its skimping on its characters and its central love story, a big mistake for a romantic drama to make.

The film, directed by Lee Toland Krieger and written by J. Mills Goodloe (also responsible for last year's Nicholas Sparks adaptation, "The Best of Me") and Salvador Paskowitz, spans centuries in the life of Adaline Bowman (Lively, of "Savages"), a woman who momentarily dies after a car accident, is struck by lightning and brought back to life, and afterward stops aging entirely. How does someone live like that? How does someone love like that? The film traces the decades of Adaline's life after her accident until she eventually meets a man who changes her life, because of course he does, all to prove the concept that "love is timeless." If only it were better developed.

Through narration, "The Age of Adaline" begins by setting up Adaline's life: "This is the first and last chapter of her story," the narration goes, introducing us to her mannerisms and habits: Currently living under the alias Jennifer Larson in San Francisco, Adaline lives in a nondescript apartment with five locks on the door, buys new identification documents and knows all the tricks of the process, has an old typewriter and a black and white wedding photo in he apartment, and works at the city archives, because as a person who is actually 107 years old, she has a keen grasp of and appreciation for history. Born an only child in 1908, widowed in 1932, and with just a daughter as her family, Adaline stopped aging in the 1940s and has been living practically in self-imposed exile since. How to explain what happened to her, when she doesn't understand it, either? How to love again?

Those questions get more complicated that night, when at a New Year's Eve party she catches the eye of Ellis (Michiel Huisman, of "World War Z," in which he weirdly also played a character named Ellis), a handsome, charming man who forces his way onto her elevator as she's leaving the party. Because he's good-looking and rich, he can get away with admitting to her that he's been watching for some time after seeing her at work, and decided that he had to meet her, and then sends her a selection of first-edition novels at her job as a way to woo her (or, perhaps, further guilt her, after giving the institution $50,000; but I digress). It's normally not Adaline's style to indulge in love affairs—one almost-engagement decades ago still brings her to tears—but there is something in Ellis that enthralls her, and so they spend a night together.

He wants more, but is she ready to give it? And if she does, can she trust him? Or will his life—he has parents, a sister, friends, theoretically countless other people who would see Adaline and question her inability to age—be more complicated? It's whether Adaline decides to finally live that becomes the question of "The Age of Adaline," but unfortunately for us, this is as telegraphed a love story as it gets.

Perhaps it would be better if the main setup weren't "girl runs away from guy because he loves her and she's afraid of her feelings," which is the setup of practically every Sparks novel ever (and maybe that's why screenwriter Goodloe landed this project, because of his familiarity with those adaptations?), but ultimately the love story that we're supposed to root for here is thoroughly unconvincing. The main problem is because Adaline doesn't have any character development outside of being beautiful and old enough to know trivia from decades ago, which seems enthralling to strangers who don't understand her condition, but what are her likes, her interests, her favorite experiences from her life, her favorite memories? Similarly, Ellis is presented as the perfect guy (he's rich, he's handsome, he cooks, he's renovating his own apartment, he's intelligent, he's a self-made man), but he doesn't have any particular qualities of his own, any quirks or ticks that would make him unique and loveable. The film treats their relationship as, "Well, they're both pretty people, so let's see them be pretty together!" but that's not really enough.

There are other things that "The Age of Adaline" gets right, though, even if the narration is profoundly pretentious, often explaining things that already happened on screen with words like "threefold" and "availed." That doesn't detract from Lively's very nice chemistry with Ellen Burstyn, who plays her daughter; their age-reversed dynamic is clever and executed well. Harrison Ford provides some of the strongest emotional moments in his few scenes as a man remembering and trying to reconcile a past life. And the film's use of flashbacks are effective, especially when we see glimpses of the other love story that shaped Adaline's life.

But as prettily as the film is shot and as much as Lively's outfits and makeup through the decades will inspire severe fashion envy, "The Age of Adaline" is simultaneously nice-enough and thoroughly forgettable. Stronger character development and a love story were necessary here, and without them, "The Age of Adaline" doesn't come together as well as it should.

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