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The Age of Adaline – Review


Release Date: 24 April 2015 [USA]
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Writer: Salvador Paskowitz - J. Mills Goodloe [Story & Screenplay]
Cast: Blake Lively - Michiel Huisman - Harrison Ford - Ellen Burstyn



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Posted May 10, 2015 by

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The Age of Adaline Review:

I can’t tell you the last time I watched a romantic movie, let alone enjoyed one, let alone gone to the cinema to see one. It was between this or Big Game for my next review and I chose what felt most different, having recently had my action fill with John Wick. So, I took a chance and spent my heard-earned money on a movie that I was more than likely not going to enjoy.

While I didn’t love it, I certainly enjoyed it. The Age of Adaline’s titular character is first seen buying a fake id from a nerdy delinquent who wonders why she chooses to be aged 29, saying that she could claim to be younger. Adaline simply says that 29 will be just fine, the id forger not knowing that Adaline has in fact been 29 years old for a long time.

We’re then treated to some back story, made up of turn-of-the-last-century news reel footage that tells us Adaline was in fact born in 1908. All before she reaches the age of 30, Adaline meets her first love, marries, gives birth to a daughter and becomes a widow. Then things become a little Twilight Zone-esque (a little too much, more on that in a bit).

After a freak car-accident that has Adaline first almost freezing to death then being jolted back to life by a bolt of lightning (how this isn’t a Marvel origins movie, I don’t know), she soon finds out (and by soon, I mean the guts of 20 years) that she has ceased to age. Old friends stop her and her teenage daughter in the street, astonished that they could pass for being sisters. 1950’s traffic cops look at her sideways when her driver’s license states she should look middle-aged. That’s when things become troublesome.

Come the wonderfully cheery period of McCarthyism and soon, shady Feds in rain-soaked trenchcoats and fedoras begin stalking Adaline. She’s forced to leave her daughter and begin a new life, setting in motion a routine wherein every ten years she must seek a new alias, new job and new home lest her friends and coworkers become suspicious of her persistent youthfulness.

In modern-day San Francisco, Adaline meets a dashing and rather stubborn admirer named Ellis. While certainly attracted to him, Adaline is very reluctant to follow him up knowing full well that her “condition” could lead to heartbreak.

The movie has four cornerstone characters, them being Adaline (Blake Lively), Ellis (Michiel Huisman), Adaline’s elderly daughter Flemming (Ellen Burstyn) and Ellis’ father William (Harrison Ford) who turns out to be an old lover of Adaline’s from the swinging 60’s. The performances are lop-sided in the veteran’s favour.

Lively pulls off being sophisticated and enigmatic well and in many of the movie’s flashbacks goes through a plethora of hairstyles and outfits indicative of the decades she lives through. Jack Nicholson apparently once said to Harry Dean Stanton to simply let the wardrobe do the acting. I did find her pained moments not as convincing. What a character like Adaline must be going through is horrible and frustrating and I struggled to see that show.

I found Huisman to be even less impressive. He certainly looks the dream-boat, all windswept and ripped, and is very conveniently a rich philanthropist. Ultimately, he’s the least interesting character of the lot.

The older players raise the movie a great deal. Despite being in her eighties Burstyn’s performance is full of life. In one scene, Flemming urges her mother to pursue Ellis more enthusiastically while Adaline worries that there’s no future there. Flemming replies, “All you got is future!” Burstyn delivers the line with teenage energy. Bizarrely, this is the second time she’s played a child who becomes older than her parent (Murphy Cooper from Interstellar)

I thought the movie’s greatest treat was in the form of a star-struck Harrison Ford (Knowing he was on the cast was another factor that drew me in). At times he grumbles over a glass of wine, others he waxes nostalgic at the breakfast table in his skivvies and he seems so casual at home, like he spent a year getting comfortable on the set. When Adeline comes back into his life after 50 years, the shock on his face and in his manner is the most convincing performing on display. Where Lively may have come short in expression, Ford knocks it out of the park and despite being an iconic gruff, his dialogue is heartfelt and genuinely touching (Gushing over).

It was certainly refreshing being treated to a less popular American skyline (New York being done to death). The movie shows off San Francisco as if it were directed by the tourist board. There’s plenty of the Golden Gate and the Ferry Building to see but one shot struck me real good. A taxi stops at the sidewalk after climbing one of San Fran’s hills. Adaline gets out into the dark and the rain, headed for Ellis’ apartment. As a cable car rattles down the street, the camera pans up and we just catch a glimpse of the Transamerica Pyramid. Put that cut in greyscale and you would swear you were watching a neo-noir.

The movie’s biggest problem is the jarring Twilight Zone-like voice overs. The narration feels like lead weight when the rest of the movie is meant to be fleeting and nuanced. It is exposition done terribly clumsy and a great example of when to show and not to tell. I think a much better idea would have been if the narrator’s explanations were instead Adaline’s own theories. After all, it is revealed in her backstory that she spent some time in medical school trying to learn more about her abnormality.

A pleasant surprise indeed. A new and charming take on the ageless theme like Interview With A Vampire and Benjamin Button before it. While Blake Lively performs decently, she is eclipsed by her older co-stars Ellen Burstyn and Harrison Ford. (I love him. He knows.)


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Michael Keyes
Silences Band
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