Freaky alchemy morphs a crashed car into the fountain of youth for Gossip Girl Blake Lively’s forever-29 heroine Adaline Bowman in stylish romance Age of Adaline.
While it doesn’t join the company of classic melodramatic weepers it hopes to emulate (think The Notebook to All That Heaven Allows), Age of Adaline is a notch above the predictable, underwritten pap that passes for movie romances today. And yes, Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m talking to you.
A recently widowed mother of a young daughter, Adaline was born in 1908. Thanks to some wonky physics and a lightning bolt one night, she’ll never age past her 20s. The time freeze compels her to be on the move every 10 years or so when people start asking questions in those pre-Botox decades, a lifestyle that means relationships are difficult and lasting love is impossible.
Only Adaline’s daughter, Flemming, played with touching spark by Ellen Burstyn, knows her mother’s secret. It leads to a perfect vignette where youthful Adaline lectures sixty-something Flemming about the dangers of salt while her white-haired daughter wilfully sprinkles her lunch plate and ponders moving to a retirement community. Each play their mother-daughter roles perfectly, an in-joke only the audience feels privy to.
With Adaline’s mannered speech and the kind of low-key approach referred to once upon a time as “ladylike,” director Lee Toland Krieger ensures the title character is an anachronism. Too bad Lively doesn’t breathe much more into her character than wistfulness and an ability to look terrific whether she’s dressing for the ’40s or ’70s.
Now living as Jenny and about to make another bolt, Adaline meets shaggily handsome philanthropist Ellis (Michiel Huisman of Game of Thrones, Orphan Black) at a New Year’s Eve party and for the first time, she’s tempted to stick around and let love take its course. But Ellis’s father (Harrison Ford in his best role in years) seems to have unfinished business with the mysterious, commitment-shy gal his son has fallen for.
Lively has the cool, porcelain beauty required to pull off Adaline’s aloofness and screenwriters J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz find novel ways to underscore the loneliness of a woman with the time to learn new languages and skills, yet doomed to bury everyone she loves, right down to beloved pets.
The movie has the softened look of an old-time romance, with muted tones and a sympathetic score heavy on strings that stops shy of being maudlin.
What’s missing is the streak of passion that would make Adaline a more complete character and while Lively handles herself capably, it’s always with a languid sensibility that makes it seem she’s just gotten up from an afternoon nap.
Lovers of the genre will find plenty to love about the stylish Age of Adaline and may find themselves rooting through pockets for a tissue at points, a romance movie equivalent of a standing ovation.