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THE AGE OF ADALINE Movie Review – Pretty (Immortal) Woman And Not Much Else

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When a romantic drama elevates a character with stalker tendencies into a masculine ideal, there’s a problem. When that romantic drama is The Age of Adaline, the latest, ultimately failed, attempt to turn Blake Lively from one-time CW star (Gossip Girl) to a movie star, then that problem is magnified ten-fold (if not twelve-fold). With lackluster direction from Lee Toland Krieger (Celeste & Jesse Forever, The Vicious Kind) and a lifeless script from J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz, The Age of Adaline wallows in the regressive, retrogressive conventions and clichés of the genre, without offering moviegoers anything – with the exception of Lively’s head-spinning, cover-model costume changes – to retain anything except a superficial, passing interest in The Age of Adaline and the trite, stale, unsatisfying resolution of its central conflict (“conflict” used loosely here).

Apparently unsure as to how to begin, Krieger and his screenwriters lean heavily on Voice of God narration, an offscreen voice (Hugh Ross, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), engages in egregious telling, mixed with some showing, of the not particularly complex idea at the center of The Age of Adaline: Adaline Bowman (Lively), doesn’t look a day over 29, but in fact, she’s more than 100 years old. Thankfully, she’s not a sparkly, Twilight-inspired vampire, just a not quite extraordinary woman who, through an extraordinary accident (i.e., the intervention of idea-challenged screenwriters), never ages. It’s both a blessing and a curse (and vice versa). Her husband dies in a bridge-building accident (she never remarries due to the non-aging thing), but as her daughter, Flemming (Ellen Burstyn in her senior years) grows up into a young woman (and beyond), it becomes obvious the usual signs of aging (e.g., hair, skin, body, etc.) don’t apply to Adaline.

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Goodloe and Paskowitz’s script periodically jumps forward a few years (decade?), taking in the changing times (incidentally giving Lively the opportunity to switch costumes just as frequently), as well as a brief foray into government conspiracy territory when shadowy agents track down and attempt to kidnap Adaline, presumably to turn her into a test/experimental subject. She flees San Francisco, taking up one assumed identity after another, but for reasons that Goodloe and Paskowitz leave unexplained, she repeatedly returns to San Francisco, settling in despite running the obvious risk of being discovered by an old friend or associate (or the big bad government). Apparently, she loves San Francisco too much to leave for long, yet the Voice of God narrator seems to ignore that point, sounding the warning on several occasions.

Careless, sloppy storytelling shouldn’t be a surprise where romantic dramas, especially romantic dramas with a fantasy twist, are concerned, but The Age of Adaline suffers from a much bigger, more consequential problem: Adaline’s burgeoning romantic relationship with Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman, Game of Thrones). Ellis represents the romantic fantasy ideal: He’s super-wealthy (tech billionaire), essentially retired (so he can spend unlimited amounts of time with the heroine), and eagerly participates in philanthropy (thus making him a “good” 1%’er, not an evil one). Despite all of Ellis’ supposed positive qualities, Adaline doesn’t seem to notice his other, darker tendencies (c.f., Fifty Shades of Grey). He’s a stalker, albeit one with the financial resources to somehow offset Adaline’s realization of said tendencies. He wines and dines her, of course. She resists due to the immortality thing, eventually giving in (because even immortals who look and dress like Blake Lively deserve a chance at enduring love).

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To be fair, without Ellis’ compulsive behavior going unnoticed by Adaline (but hopefully not by moviegoers), The Age of Adaline would simply limp through one predictable scene after another. Even then, The Age of Adaline remains at best superficially engaging. In a film piled high with coincidences and contrivances, The Age of Adaline makes room for one more: The entrance of Ellis’ astronomer father, William (Harrison Ford), the same William who once romanced Adaline (as in forty decades earlier), only to be left hanging, unaware of Adaline’s fate or the reason for her departure from his life. Initially at least, Adaline pretends to be her own daughter, but as a ruse, it’s not likely to last long. It’s in the relationship between William and Adaline, not to mention the thorny emotional issues of a father and son loving the same woman that The of Adaline, however briefly, enters into potentially compelling territory. Unfortunately, it’s too little, too late, a subplot that should have been the central plot, a tangent or diversion to the woefully uninteresting, underdeveloped relationship between Adaline and Ellis. Then again, it’s just one more missed opportunity in a film filled with missed opportunities.

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The Author

Mel Valentin

Mel Valentin

Mel Valentin hails from the great state of New Jersey. After attending NYU undergrad (politics and economics major, religious studies minor) and grad school (law), he decided a transcontinental move to California, specifically San Francisco, was in order. Since Mel began writing nine years ago, he's written more than 1,600 film-related reviews and articles. He's a member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Online Film Critics Society.