Talk about having time on your hands. The Age of Adaline tells the story of woman eternally stuck at age twenty-nine. This is the kind of “forever young” scenario we all dream about, but Lee Toland Krieger’s film is much more interested in soapy melodrama and period piece costuming than actually taking an inquisitive look at the title character’s dilemma. This results in a lot of quivering-lipped confessions with little emotional attachment. It takes a third-act bailout by Harrison Ford to keep it watchable.
Through a series of scientific occurrences that need not concern us (and will make total sense in 2035, according to the movie), Adaline Bowman (Lively), born in 1908, becomes forever twenty-nine years old. It’s not as great as it sounds. Living in constant fear that she’ll be studied if anyone finds out about her condition, she must change locations and identities every ten years. This, of course, has prevented her from forming any real relationships and instead living the life of a recluse with an unbelievable secret. Her outlook begins to change after she meets Ellis (Huisman), the kind of flawless, well-to-do San Franciscan that only exists in books and movies. All that’s stopping her is time – too much time.
There are times writers J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz tease having some fun with this premise (Adaline is an ace Trivial Pursuit player, having lived nearly the entire twentieth century), but the film plays cold and distant for much of the runtime. Beyond social problems, very little is really known about Adaline, even with upwards of fifteen minutes of exposition to open the film. This makes it very difficult to fully invest in her plight. Because of the lack of backbone to the story, Goodloe and Paskowitz mine deep for any emotional material, even rubbing in Adaline’s dog’s sickness for no other reason than plucked tears. A pretty ridiculous coincidence pops up in the third act, which at least raises the stakes and brings forth some ramifications for Adaline’s past decisions.
Blake Lively does what she can with this wet paper towel of a role. Given so little depth to work with, Lively primarily does what we already know she can do: put on nice clothes and look pretty all the time. Huisman fares well enough as the love interest, bringing much-needed levity to a few scenes. His chemistry with Lively is decent at best, however. It’s Harrison Ford, appearing in the film’s last half-hour, who ups the ante with an effective turn as a man who swears he knows Adaline from decades earlier. This is one of his better roles of recent years.
For all its melodramatic mopey-ness, The Age of Adaline mostly treads water to its anti-climactic conclusion. It’s fairly fitting for a movie that never feels interested in plumbing the depths of its characters. Visually, it’s a fine-looking film. Krieger shoots the 40’s and 50’s-era scenes with a keen eye and warm lens. There are just too many blown opportunities at the story level, resulting in a movie that should really only be seen, ironically, by people with too much time on their hands.
Length: 110 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for a suggestive comment.
Theatrical Release: April 24, 2015
Directed by: Lee Toland Krieger
Written by: J. Mills Goodloe & Salvador Paskowitz
Cast: Blake Lively, Ellen Burstyn, Harrison Ford, Michiel Huisman, Kathy Baker