A lot of movies have attempted to tell a love story while mixing in small elements of science fiction or fantasy. Movies like The Time Traveller’s Wife or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button have all attempted to tell grounded love stories with protagonists that displayed a supernatural characteristic. Lee Toland Krieger’s The Age of Adaline is the latest of these films, telling the story of an immortal woman who finds love.
Born in 1908, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) lived a normal life. That is of course, until one fateful accident which, through an overly explained “scientific” phenomenon, gives her the power of immortality. Chased down by the government who wants to perform tests on her, Adaline adopts a different identity every decade to stay hidden. Trapped in an endless and empty life with her now aged daughter Flemming (Ellen Burstyn) providing the only source of meaningful human interaction she has, Adaline’s life takes a turn when she meets Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman), a handsome internet millionaire who shows a romantic interest in her. After their meeting, Adaline must decide whether to continue her lonely life as a runaway, or throw caution to the wind and tell Ellis about her secret and start a permanent life with him. The movie also stars Harrison Ford as a character that I would rather not mention because, no matter what the trailer says, it’s a huge spoiler.
Watching Age of Adaline was like a roller coaster ride. Not because it was thrilling, but because my interest in it rose and fell at various points throughout. The first third sets up the premise very interestingly and shows us Adaline’s life as it evolved from her birth to today as well as the relationship between Adaline and her daughter. Unfortunately, the moment the romance between Adaline and Ellis started, I began losing interest. It’s not that the romance isn’t believable (it is) or that the chemistry between the actors isn’t present (it is) it’s that the movie seems to forget the fact that Adaline is immortal and it just becomes any other average romance movie.
It was only when Harrison Ford finally popped up that I got interested in the movie again. The last third moves at a swift pace, and once again explores the many complications that arise when you’re immortal. That’s really where the movie shines. The two best elements of the story are the relationships between Adaline and her daughter (who ages normally and is now an elderly woman) and Adaline and Ford’s character, as they depict something that I have rarely, if ever, seen in any other film. I also appreciated all the little historical elements the movie incorporates. If you want to know some very interesting historical facts about San Francisco, then Age of Adaline has you covered.
The biggest problem with Age of Adaline is that it’s just too damn predictable. I was able to guess the movie’s ending after only 10 minutes, and even when it tricks you into thinking it’s going to take a risk and do something new, it just reverts to the most obvious path. It’s the Ockham’s razor of film-making: I realize that some of the blame lies on me. I’ve seen so many movies of this type that it takes a lot to genuinely surprise me. Aside from being predictable, the movie also has some EXTREMELY cliché moments. The first encounter between Adaline and Ellis is them starring at each other across a crowded room in slow motion with soft music playing in the background, something that’s done in almost every romantic movie ever made. I face palmed at that scene, it’s really that cheesy.
That being said, I was able to mostly ignore the movie’s predictability and cheesiness because the performances by Lively and Ford are amazing and extremely engaging. I’ll admit, based on all the other films and TV shows that I have seen her in; I had concluded that Lively simply was not a good actress. She looked like she was bored all throughout Green Lantern (although far from being the worst part of that train wreck of a film) and from what I saw of her in the few Gossip Girl episodes I have seen, she just seemed like a lifeless actress. But here, Lively does an amazing job of adopting the mannerisms of a hundred year old world weary woman trapped in the body of a young woman. I would go as far as to say that this is the best acting performance I have seen this year in film and is perfectly deserving of award consideration. Harrison Ford is also amazing, proving once again that he is at his best when he accepts the fact that he has become an older actor, just like he did in the Jackie Robinson biopic 42.
I realize that I am not the target audience for this movie and have no doubt that the people who love these kinds of films will love Age of Adaline. There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with this film, it does every a romantic film needs to. It’s visually appealing and all the period scenes look authentic. The only thing keeping it from being a truly great film for me is the predictable script and extremely cliché romance tropes. This is a perfect example of a film with a lot of wasted potential. I can’t understate how terrific both Lively and Ford are, and their performances alone make this a movie worth your time.
Final Grade: 6/10