Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Cast: Blake Lively, Michel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn, Kathy Baker
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There’s something beguiling about The Age Of Adaline, a film that wasn’t even the most successful “Age of” movie in the week it originally came out, as it was wasted as counter-programming against Marvel’s Avengers sequel, Age Of Ultron. It falls between two stalks of magical realism in movies, carrying neither the formal whimsy of David Fincher’s The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button nor the attention-grabbing weirdness of a Collateral Beauty. It does make a strong pitch right down the centre of its fellows, though, and holds an almost intangible charm.
During an unseasonal snowstorm in 1937, Adaline Bowman (Lively) is a 29 year old widow who gains an unusual superpower in a car accident, because magic. She’s been left immune to the ravages of time, and doesn’t age at all over the next seven decades.
By 2014, Adaline has fallen into a routine of changing her identity every decade to avoid detection and her only regular human contact is with her now-elderly daughter, Flemming (Ellen Burstyn). When she meets a persistent young suitor, Ellis, (Game Of Thrones’ Michel Huisman) that might all change, but then again, as we discover through flashbacks, it’s not the first time she’s tried to get close to someone.
It’s a handsome, cinematic film that nevertheless feels tailored to fit a two-hour daytime slot on one of the lesser known movie channels rather than a cinema screen. While that might have felt like its destiny during its theatrical run, it has qualities that become more obvious now that it’s available to watch on Netflix.
For starters, the cast significantly elevate a script that has more story than it knows what to do with. Adaline would have marked Blake Lively’s instant graduation to “serious movie actress”, if the rest of the film lived up to her performance. Having played often thankless supporting roles since branching out from TV’s Gossip Girl, she’s finally given something to do here, and she holds herself magnificently as the titular young fogey.
She even believably makes it so that “eternally looking like Blake Lively” might be something of a curse; she affects a graceful isolation, as someone who is physically incapable of change, trying not to freeze out her emotions over the course of an unnaturally long life. Hopefully, even better roles will follow and we could well be looking back at her work in this one a decade from now, when she’s had a couple of Oscar nominations under her belt, as a real curious case.
Huisman hardly has an easy job making besotted hipster Ellis into a lovable leading man, but it’s the older cast, playing younger characters, against whom Lively really holds her own. After her cameo in Interstellar, Ellen Burstyn lends emotional heft to yet another time-bending family relationship, and Harrison Ford is a revelation as Ellis’ father, who happens to have known Adaline back in the 1960s. As well as jump-starting the plot in the second half of the film, Ford classes up the proceedings, and the way in which the reappearance of Adaline piques his nostalgia leads to some legitimately great scenes.
Regrettably, the script isn’t quite up to that standard. The writing credits are just as confused (J. Mills Goodloe has three credits and Salvador Paskowitz has two, all on one screen of the end credits) and, likewise, its rambling approach to the flashbacks unsettle the film by aiming for a would-be literary tone.
Most hilariously, though, the film has the most misjudged narration in a Harrison Ford movie since the original cut of Blade Runner. The voice of Hugh Ross abruptly interjects every now and then to dispense weirdly specific cod-science. The trouble is that every scene in which this happens involves blatant magic. Compared to how a story like The Time Traveller’s Wife leaves the specifics of the hubby’s genetic disorder to the imagination, it’s weird that Goodloe, Paskowitz, Goodloe, Paskowitz and Goodloe struggled so much with trying to explain how lightning cancels ageing.
The Age of Adaline is a flawed romantic fantasy and certainly can’t boast the most elegant execution of an interesting premise. However, it’s winsome in all the right places and that even makes its most ridiculous attempts at grounding forgivable. You may outright hate it, if it catches you in the wrong mood, but for nothing else other than Lively’s ethereal leading role, or Ford’s emotional gravitas, or just to see what a Hallmark Channel movie directed by David Fincher might look like, it’s worth your time.
The Age of Adaline is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.
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