Review by Candice Lee Catullo
The narrator explains: Adaline, played by Blake Lively (GOSSIP GIRL), was in a car accident in 1935. Through a series of unlikely events – and a healthy does of movie magic – Adaline’s body stops aging. Even Adaline cannot comprehend the preposterous sci-fi magic that paused her lifespan, and she spends her life hiding her condition for fear of being analyzed and criticized. In 2014, she is going by the alias Jenny and is living a mostly solitary life.
The only human who knows Adaline’s secret is her daughter played by Ellen Burstyn (THE EXORCIST, DRAFT DAY). Her daughter is also the most heart-braking yardstick of Adaline’s condition – as her daughter aged they had to explain the lack of age difference by pretending to be sisters or friends and now Adaline is watching her daughter grow old. Paradoxes like her relationship with her daughter highlight the tragic nature of Adaline’s condition. Her suffering reminds me of Abraham Lincoln’s quote: “And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”
Through flashbacks, the audience does get a look at Adaline’s extraordinary and long life. It’s a look back at more carefree times when Adaline was basking in her infinite time on this Earth. Glimpses into her impressive past – her travels, her wisdom, her memories – are detailed and compelling. Decades of experience make her highly intelligent, mysterious and charismatic. Most of the movie takes place in the year 2014, so when the script reveals small details from Adaline’s past, they taste delicious.
Similarly, there were small vignettes throughout the movie that felt very special and unique. A relationship with her dog, for example, and a photo album of all her dogs throughout the years illustrated very powerful imagery.
The plot thickens when Adaline meets love interest Ellis, played by Michiel Huisman (WILD, GAME OF THRONES). Their romance motivates the rest of the plot, and while their love story is a fine one, Adaline’s story seems much bigger than one suave philanthropist. For instance, when a man from Adaline’s distant past crosses her path again, the stakes seem much higher.
That man from the past is played by Harrison Ford, and he gives an intense and captivating performance. Lively also gives a strong performance. Her first blockbuster leading performance is strong, mysterious, and consuming. Her perfect vintage fashions helped – kudos to costume designer Angus Strathie (MOULIN ROUGE) for the drool-worthy threads.
AGE OF ADALINE was a charming and enchanting story. But for all the magic, it feels like the movie did not reach its potential. If the filmmakers expected the audience to believe the outlandish sci-fi premise that put Adaline in this predicament, then it seems like they easily could have also pushed a few other boundaries of unique storytelling beyond the boy meets (a really, really) old girl storyline. But, as Adaline taught me, it’s best not to dwell on what might have been. 3 out of 4