“You’ve lived, but you’ve never had a life.”
After miraculously remaining 29 years old for almost eight decades, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) has lived a solitary existence, never allowing herself to get close to anyone who might reveal her secret. But a chance encounter with charismatic philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michael Huisman) reignites her passion for life and romance. When a weekend with his parents threatens to uncover the truth, Adaline makes a decision that will change her life forever.
The synopsis for Age of Adaline sounds a little more compelling than it actually is, at least that is how it starts. From the early going, the film flutters in and out of third person narrative being told in numerous flashbacks. Shot meticulously through periodic set pieces carefully constructed to engage the audience creating an aura of hyper realism. Almost more literary than cinematic, the Age of Adaline is a soft spoken yet beautifully vivid experience. Director Lee Toland Krieger’s vision plays like a slideshow of images to a novel that never was. Truly a spectacle, it is as much a lesson is surrealism as it is a film.
Blake Lively as the title character is nothing short of stunning. She is classically beautiful in every sense of the word, poised yet restrained, Lively has always been an actress out of time. If this film does anything for her it will show that she is akin to the beauties that used to grace the screen the likes of Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn. Lively is as carefully subdued as she has to be to pull off playing such an enigmatic character. She does all that she can with what she has to work with, the script provided her with a statuesque figurine like character with no real discernible motivations. Adaline loves her daughter, yet her constant shifting makes it impossible to carry that relationship, she researches medicine and history mercilessly, yet never actually contributes anything of real value to society.
Through two-thirds of the film, it is a pouty, brooding, sappy film that lacks a truly sincere moment and all focus. Then things do a complete 180. We are introduced to Ellis’ parents, played by Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker. From the second Adaline walks through the door and into the final act of the film the mood shifts and becomes whole. William (Ford) is encapsulated by “Jenny” (Adaline’s alternate identity for much of the film) and her apparent resemblance to his former love. From here there is this warmth that dawns the screen and never seems to falter. William is drawn to her as she stirs up memories of the brief but intense relationship they once had. Adaline is equally shaken when she locks eyes with William, fondly and woefully remembering all of the reasons that she refuses love, as she feels the concept loses meaning when you cannot grow old with someone.
Ford brings an incredible depth that essentially saves the film from obscurity. His chance meeting with his first true love sends him into a reminiscent haze of drinking and fond memories. He evokes jealousy from his current wife, who becomes naturally upset over his smiling face when he remarks on how wonderful Adaline Bowman truly was. Ford is undeniably and yet gorgeously devastating, his expressions and his delivery are amazing, this is the best we’ve seen him since The Fugitive.
The last third the film is are a symphony of emotion, elegantly choreographed. Playing out like a doomed love story, whose glaring inconsistencies are washed away and drowned in a sea of subtleties. This however, is fleeting as the film resigns itself to it’s original design, and manipulates it’s audience in a woeful attempt to draw out tears, in the harshest of ways.
The conclusion of the film ruins an otherwise beautiful third act. Taking a decisively more popular and shrewd approach to it’s defining morals, Adaline derails in it’s most important sequence. Underestimating its audience’s intelligence, the film wraps itself up in a tidy bow, turning an otherwise beautiful story into a glorified self help manifesto about the necessity of commitment. The problem is that this film plays so much better as a surreal dream of love lost and somber sacrifice. It teeters on the edge of greatness, but its waning moments tip it into obscurity.
Age of Adaline is a beautiful film full of artful imagery. It is a movie that, beyond story and performance, is a visual masterpiece of subtle symbolism. Lively is as exquisitely alluring as she is talented. Ford is the best he’s been in recent memory, reigning in the mundane and managing, along with Kathy Baker, to be the film’s emotional tuning fork. When simply focussing on the contrived love story the film is simply “okay”. Huisman isn’t spectacular and the film stumbles out of the gate due to the lack of chemistry between him and Lively, but then comes the epiphany. Switching gears, the story almost begins to gracefully unfold all on it’s own. Age of Adaline is a big budget film that tries so hard to pretty, that it instinctually fails to notice that it’s second act isn’t working. However, this is an incredibly powerful film, at times, completely in spite of itself.
4/5 Pretty Cool Bro