IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 112 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
In San Francisco, Adaline Bowman purchases some fake IDs, then returns to her apartment before going to work at the local library’s office of archives. She opens a film reel and we flash back to her early life. She was born on New Years Day in 1908, got married, had a child, and became a widow when her husband suffered an accident during the building of the Golden Gate Bridge. One night, she suffers a car accident/lightning strike combination that causes her to remain 27 years old forever. After failing to find anything to explain her condition, and with no ID after it is taken away, she escapes two FBI agents and decides she will spend her life running away with a new look and identity every decade….
In one scene towards the end of The Age Of Adaline, someone tells someone else that they haven’t aged since 1935, and it happens off-screen. It’s one of the moments that the film has been seemingly heading to, but director Lee Toland Krieger and screenwriters J. Mills Goodloe and Samuel Paskowitz decided that the viewer wasn’t allowed to see such a pivotal moment, an especially bad decision considering how unrewarding and bland their film has been up to now. Following in the footsteps of as diverse fare as Highlander, Orlando and Forever, The Age Of Adaline is the latest effort to deal with the subject of immortality and tell us that it would be a curse rather than a blessing, and it’s easily one of the weakest, a considerable letdown considering the great potential of the subject matter.
The film’s trailer is misleading, suggesting that the film will go through its ageless heroine’s life through the decades. After a rather touching present day opening where we get a sense of Adaline’s lonely, unsettled existence primarily from learning that she’s owned the same type of dog over and over again, we flash back to her early years, but this is only for about ten minutes and with some really irritatingly heavy handed narration which does eventually go away for a while but makes unwelcome returns later, largely telling us what is happening on-screen or laughably trying to explain why stuff is happening to Adaline while we see shots of space, earth and meteorites but only making the viewer more confused. Most of the film is set in the present day, albeit with a few frustratingly short flashbacks, and much of it concerns a love story which mostly falls flat in a film which should be really romantic and moving. There are some good scenes involving Adaline and her now elderly daughter whom she passes off as her grandmother, but far too much of the film feels cold and sterile despite the best efforts of Blake Lively who successfully projects the idea of someone who has basically witnessed the 20th Century with all its monumental events and inventions but has closed herself off from the world because of her secret which, most damagingly, causes her to run away from love.
The film constantly pushes its love story, which as I’ve said isn’t done very well anyway, in favour of the more interestingly aspects of its premise and asks us to stomach some insane coincidences before we come to a really dumb and unimaginative ending that really insults the viewer. I’d like to think it wasn’t the ending the writers first thought of, though to be honest the whole script needed some major re-structuring to make it work. There are a few passages though when The Age Of Adaline does move up several notches and actually becomes something quite moving and with a profound sense of time, memory and pain. These bits all feature Harrison Ford, as a man who once had an affair with Adaline decades ago and is still in love with her. In what maybe the best performance I’ve ever seen from a sometimes lazy actor who will only usually totally deliver when he really engages with the script and his character, his looks of sadness when his lost love comes back into his life is almost heartbreaking. The film would have been far better off ditching the wet and weedy Michael Huisman as the main male love interest, or at least making the character far less prominent, and dealing more with Ford’s character and the profound questions the situations could bring up. Then again, the muddled, often stupid script disappoints over and over again in a way that almost made this critic scream at the screen in frustration.
Lee Toland Krieger stages a few decent moments like two car crashes shown mostly from inside the car, and there’s a rather lovely scene set in an really old underground drive-in replete with cars and a ceiling which gives the impression that it’s a starlit sky, while very occasionally the film does feel like it’s making some genuine and deep statements of aging that every single person ought to relate to [though I doubt anyone can relate to finding a grey hair and being happy about it], but then it constantly falls back on idiocy and sometimes just plain boredom. Except for much of the acting, hardly anything works well in it, even things like David Lanzenberg’s either dark or muted cinematography which just helps make the film feel depressing. The Age Of Adaline has its fleeting pleasures, but for the most part it’s so disappointing it hurts.