In the vein of recent hits such as ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ and ‘About Time’, ‘The Age of Adaline’ tells a story of someone for whom time means something different than for the rest of us. But is it worth your time?
‘The Age of Adaline’ follows a young woman (Blake Lively – ‘Gossip Girl,’ ‘Savages’) who, at the age of 29 in the 1930s, experiences an accident that results in her no longer aging. She necessarily then leads a solitary life, keeping her “condition” a secret from everyone except her daughter Flemming (Academy Award winner Ellen Burstyn – ‘Interstellar’). Adaline’s secret is threatened when she falls for the charismatic Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman – ‘Game of Thrones’) and reunites with someone from her past.
Blake Lively is best known for her role as Serena in ‘Gossip Girl’; as the lead in ‘The Age of Adaline’, can Lively hold her own amongst actors of the calibre of Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker? Well, she does her best. At times her performance is stilted, a little smug, and frustrating. While it’s understandable that the character is avoiding discovery, Lively has infused her with a kind of self-assured vulnerability. That might seem like an oxymoron, but somehow Adaline is both smug and afraid. The fear makes sense, and perhaps what Lively was aiming for wasn’t smugness but world-weariness, but she never quite gets that across.
The score is charming and the editing is invisible, as they should be in a film such as this. Performances from all the supporting cast are excellent, particularly Ford as Ellis’ father William, and Kathy Baker as his wife. It’s nice to see Harrison playing someone pleasant again. Huisman is also very good: relatable in his frustration with Adaline’s nonsensical behaviour. Production value is high, though there are a few gaffs where better attention to detail was needed. The strength of this film lies in its portrayal of the different shades of love, and that Adaline’s story is simply interesting. However, with such a rich tapestry of possibilities in her life, the story chosen is a little disappointing.
I had a few other issues with this film, and if you plan on seeing it, you may wish to stop reading now – not for spoilers, but just because my nit-picking might put you off. Skip to the last paragraph.
Firstly, Adaline’s trying to blend in, but her wardrobe and mannerisms set her apart immediately in a modern world. She seems mired in the past, unable to truly assimilate into current culture. Her style, something the production seems particularly proud of, is gorgeous, no doubt about it, but is at odds with the character’s stated goals. Secondly, her having a daughter who looks like her grandma seems to be far less complicated than it should be.
The strength of this film lies in its portrayal of the different shades of love, and that Adaline’s story is simply interesting.
Where this film really falls apart is to do with the writing and the narration. It starts out rather promising, if unoriginal. However, the pseudo-science/sci-fi nonsense trying to explain Adaline’s condition is rubbish. It would have been so much better had the narrator simply said she had an accident and stopped aging, rather than the writers shoving some crap about DNA and electrons in there to explain it. And it gets worse - the end attempts to wrap everything up in a neat little package by spoon-feeding us more of the same dribble, with a little simplified chaos theory thrown in. Frankly, it’s insulting (particularly to anyone who really likes sci-fi/science). Again, no “explanation” would have been miles better than what the writing provided. It’s as though at some point the script was hijacked by a pair of 12-year-olds who went with the obvious instead of giving this film the complicated and nuanced writing it really deserved.
But (and this is a big BUT), it’s not a bad film. It’s enjoyable, if you can ignore all that stuff I just wrote about. The premise is decent, just not handled as well as it could be, and the acting is very good. For my money, it’s still worth a trip to the cinema, but only on Cheap Tuesday.