Born near the turn of the 20th century, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively, "Savages") faced death at 29, but a magical moment not only saved her, but has preserved her for eighty years. With only her naturally aging daughter in on her secret, Adaline hesitates to get close to anyone. Then she meets philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman, "Wild") and must make a decision which will impact "The Age of Adaline."
Romance and aging have been intertwined in movies such as "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Time Traveler's Wife" and "Winter's Tale," not to mention TV's 'The Twilight Zone." This story and screenplay by J. Mills Goodloe ("The Best of Me) & Salvador Paskowitz takes a slightly different tack using scientific gobbledygook to explain a state of suspended animation, an immortality with an off switch that relies heavily on celestial and travel route coincidences. It shouldn't work, but often does due to the appealing pairing of the leads and a strong supporting turn from Harrison Ford.
An extended, heavily narrated prologue explains just how Adaline, born in 1908, still looks 29 in the present and why she must hide her true identity, reinventing herself with a new name, home and job every 10 years. When the man who attempted to forge a connection on New Year's Eve shows up at the library she works at, insisting he will only donate rare books if she appears in the PR photo, Adaline (going by the name of Jennie) refuses to have her photograph taken. Ellis persists, getting her to laugh at an awful joke and surprising her with a lunch break trip to a San Francisco excavation revealing one of the ships the city was built upon (she returns the favor later by showing him the indoor drive-in theater she doesn't tell him was her own creation, one of the very few hints of her past).
Ellis risks a giant step, asking her to accompany him to his parents' 40th anniversary party. She's warmly embraced by mom (Cathy Baker, "Edward Scissorhands"), but when dad William (Ford) sees her, he's aghast. Clearly, he's seen this woman before...
"The Age of Adaline" is a strange film, hooked as it is on a character intent on revealing little. Lively, smartly costumed and coiffed in a modernized retro look, leans on a mannered way of speaking bolstered with a skittish fragility to embody her timeless character. But the film can be vaguely incestuous and creepy at times. When Adaline has to put her beloved companion Reese, a King Charles spaniel, down, she adds his picture to a scrapbook full of the same breed like "The Hunger's Miriam Blaylock adding the shell of her latest lover to her locked trunk in the attic. When she meets her daughter Flemming for a birthday lunch, we're treated to a senior citizen calling her 'mom,' Ellen Burstyn reprising her aging child/ageless parent "Interstellar" role. Huisman's like a puppy, one of those too-good-to-be-true movie men who nevertheless makes us not only like him but like him and Adaline together. Harrison Ford makes us feel William's emotional gut punch and the confusion of a man reassessing his life during one of its milestones.
Like Lively's costume design (Angus Strathie, "Moulin Rouge!"), production design and art direction accentuate the antique with classic architecture and repurposed warehouses. The soundtrack skips around the century with Lana Del Rey's original 'Life Is Beautiful' the film's signature, dreamy ballad.
With "The Age of Adaline," director Lee Toland Krieger ("Celeste and Jesse Forever," "The Vicious Kind") is building a resume as the go-to guy for unusual romances. While he hasn't been able to tame the film's wacky bookending bits, he's preserved a tumultuous and moving moment in time.
Robin did not see this film.
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