The concept of immortality is one of the most ancient storytelling devices, reaching all the way back to the biblical story of Methuselah. So, obviously, Hollywood is not going to feel an ounce of shame when they take another trip to that particular well for The Age Of Adaline. After watching the romantic drama, though, one could only hope that they’ll think twice before they go for another spin on the extended lifeline tangent. At the very least, they could put some more thought and heart into their next version of the script.
Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) was born on January 1, 1908. After a freak accident in her mid 20’s, Adeline finds that she does not age a day past the moment she was struck by lightning. Employing careful strategy and relocation, she passes the decades with no personal connections except some close friends and her daughter, Flemming (Ellen Burstyn). At least, she does until she meets the dashing and wholesome Ellis (Michiel Huisman). Of course, letting her guard down also means owning up to some of the hearts she has broken in the past -- most importantly of all is that of Ellis’s father (Harrison Ford.) Can Adlaine settle down once and for all, or is she doomed to walk the Earth like Caine in Kung Fu?
The Age Of Adaline is a plodding affair that’s more at home on the Hallmark Channel than in a movie theater. This is especially sad, considering the film could have done something beautiful, or even funny, with its premise. Much like Adaline’s lifestyle between her accident and the events of the film, the story is detached from the audience and paints itself in only the broadest strokes. There are moments when this film wants you to laugh, cry, or fall in love; but the film doesn’t even lay the groundwork to earn those moments. Instead, it relies on extremely lazy shorthand to cue the audience’s reaction, so much so that by time we get to the pre-requisite “emotional finale,” the so-called payoff has no story debt it needs to fulfill. The Age Of Adaline happens because it wants to, not because it needs to.
There is one bright spot in the film’s course of events, and that’s the interplay between Blake Lively’s Adaline and Ellen Burstyn’s performance as her spitfire of a daughter, Flemming. If you walk away from this film marveling at anything, it should be the fact that Lively actually holds her own as an over-100-year-old mother in scenes where Burstyn holds her own as an excitable youth who still looks up to her mom.
It’s a shame that such fun moments are wasted in a film that sets up several plot threads, only to dispose of them as quickly as they were introduced. Intrigued by Adaline’s blind friend she’s supposedly really close to? Hope not, because she doesn’t even factor into anything past her only scene. Wondering if Harrison Ford’s marriage will be tested, and he’ll learn to let go of the woman he obsessed over from so long ago? Don’t, because it’s not even explored. The Age Of Adaline is so devoid of emotion that an animal dies (in an odd scene), and barely a tear is shed by our protagonist.
If The Age Of Adaline spent more time developing its story than it did picking pretty costumes and writing annoying narration that turns the film into an overly simplified History/Discovery Channel special, it might have had a shot at being something more. Instead, the film serves as an effective substitute for sleeping pills or punishment for your children’s mischief. Don’t waste your money, or your time, on The Age Of Adaline. Remember, thou art mortal.