Thursday, April 23, 2015

Review: 'The Age of Adaline', Starring Blake Lively, Harrison Ford, and Michiel Huisman

Popular culture is filled with stories about beings who remain young and immortal. Vampires are just some of these beings, and now Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) is among them. The obsession with remaining forever young has been a constant love affair, never dying and continuing on through the decades. Director Lee Toland Kreiger (Celeste and Jesse Forever) gives a tale of love and the sacrifices faced to protect yourself and those you love. It's a decidedly ambitious piece that doesn't quite accomplishes what it promises.

Adaline Bowman was born in 1908 and at the age of 29 was in a car accident, plunging her into freezing waters and causing her to die from hypothermia. This information is given to us in detail by the narrator (Hugh Ross), whose sole purpose, it seems, is to deliver his lines so technically and without any real inflection so as to bore us with the scientific "evidence" that would prove how Adaline stopped aging instead of just chalking it up to magical realism. That would have been easier. Regardless, Adaline stops aging and after being suspected and followed by the authorities a few times, she moves around a lot and changes her name every once in a while to remain hidden, but it's a sad and lonely life that she leads. 

All of this changes when she meets Ellis (Michiel Huisman), a mathematician and chairman on the library board where she works. Persistent, he continues to woo Adaline until she agrees to go out with him, though she stays distant because she knows there is no future with him. Moving really fast, Ellis invites Adaline to his parents' 40th anniversary party, where she meets Ellis's parents William (Harrison Ford) and Kathy (Kathy Jones). When her secret threatens to ruin the weekend and her newfound relationship, Adaline is forced to confront the reality of her life and the decision she'll make will change her forever.

The Age of Adaline is everything it sounds like. Part love story, part a lesson on change and the consequences of never growing older. And in some respects, these things work. But for the first hour or so of the film, the slow pacing and overall lack of any significant happenings make for a very bland start. Also the character of Adaline, played maturely if stiffly by Blake Lively, isn't anyone really remarkable. For a woman who's lived so long and seen so much, she isn't particularly interesting in any way that matters. The film picks up an hour in when we're introduced to Harrison Ford and Kathy Jones's characters, whom are the sole people the audience will feel any emotion for. They bring life into the film where it was missing before and put a little more intrigue, sympathy, and draw a reaction where all other characters fail to do so.

The cinematography is beautiful. Kreiger uses dim lighting, more browns and earthy tones to accentuate the older feel. And even though Adaline is now living in the present, the way Blake Lively carries herself and the way she dresses and does her hair still speaks very much to the decades of old. Some of the plot points and editing choices make themselves known here and there to show us that Adaline might be caught at any time by someone who knew her before or to highlight her true age, but none of them ever stick.

The love story of the present between Adaline and Ellis isn't at all epic and therefore loses a lot of its power to hold up the entire story, which rests on its shoulders. The love story from Adaline's past is more beautiful and interesting even though Kreiger doesn't spend a lot of time on it, which is a shame. The most frustrating thing about the film, however, is the narration, which largely could have been done away with. It isn't very compelling and turns a romance story into a scientific dissection that tries to explain things which could have been told through visuals. It also doesn't blend in with the rest of the film's tone. And so The Age of Adaline is mostly a miss, with a lot of lost potential and lack of any sincere and true romance throughout.

Release Date: April 24, 2015 | Director: Lee Toland Kreiger | Screenwriters: J. Mills Goodloe, Salvador Paskowitz | Cast: Blake Lively, Harrison Ford, Michiel Huisman, Kathy Taylor, Ellen Burstyn, Amanda Crew, Hugh Ross | Genre: Drama, Romance | MPAA Rating: PG-13 for a suggestive comment

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