The Age of Adaline
I was deeply curious about The Age of Adaline, with its premise of a near-immortal woman who stops aging in the 1930s. Like a lot of people, for me, the idea of more time is appealing. The nature of scheduling to the overbooked is a tricky thing, and coincidentally, I didn’t see the film previously because I couldn’t find the time to make it to a theater while it was playing. I’m glad I didn’t, since it’s a piece I appreciated better in a more comfortable, intimate setting, given its leisurely pace.
Blake Lively, with her patrician looks and voice, is a good choice to play an unaging woman. Her character emphasizes, early on, how important the details are, and so I found myself paying attention to settings and fashion and hairstyles and all those set-dressing choices. In an early scene with her dog, I even believe she was eating madeleines, Proust’s signifier of sense memory, a touch I appreciated.
Unfortunately, the pacing and storytelling aren’t handled as well as the movie’s look. The filmmakers spent too much time on why and how this miracle happens, for example, with a pseudo-scientific basis given in corny narration. For a romantic drama like this, it doesn’t matter. Many of the later events are predictable, particularly the speech from Adaline’s elderly daughter (Ellen Burstyn) about needing to allow people into her life, but the performances are good. The movie was directed by Lee Toland Krieger, who previously helmed Celeste & Jesse Forever, and he provides a commentary track.
The concept is thought-provoking — to protect herself, after early government interest, Adaline adopts a policy of changing her identity every decade, never making lasting connections. Then she’s heavily pursued at a New Year’s Eve party by a handsome stranger (Michiel Huisman), who turns out to be privileged and a little bit of a stalker. After some snags, he takes her to his parents’ (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker) anniversary party, where complications ensue.
It took over an hour for the movie to get to what I thought was the real meat, the risk of meeting again someone from your old life, and I wish more had been done with it. Then the resolution seemed to drag out beyond the point when I was ready for things to wrap up, particularly since I was doing a pretty good job guessing what would happen next. And my least favorite parts where when the narrator came back, since those scenes were usually when he listed distracting elements I didn’t need to know while getting in the way of what I’d already figured out.
I would have liked to have seen more elements of Adaline’s life over the years, but then, I’m a sucker for period pieces. There are a few bits that are quite clever, such as the guy giving her “flowers” in the form of floral-titled books. Lively well captures the boredom and mental remove of the immortal, and I appreciated her classic style. Unfortunately, in comparison to her and Ford, the male lead is something of a placeholder, without much personality. More could have been done with this movie to make it compelling, but as it is, it’s a visually pleasant time-waster.
In addition to the commentary, mentioned above, and two deleted scenes, totalling 4 1/2 minutes, there are three extras:
“A Love Story for the Ages” (30 minutes) — the director, producers, and star talk about their vision for the movie while we see a lot of clips from the film we just watched. Sadly, the director loved the narrative element as an omniscient commentator, which is a great indicator of where our opinions differ. They also talk about filming San Francisco in Vancouver as part of a lengthy segment on set design. I found little new in this featurette, and I dozed off during part of it.
“Style Throughout the Ages” (18 minutes) — I thought this was going to be about fashion, but while that’s mentioned, it’s mostly about how great a job the director did in capturing the visuals, particularly with the past periods. The narrator also returns, boo.
“Discovering Young Harrison Ford: Anthony Ingruber, an Online Sensation” (8 minutes) — He does a fabulous job, it’s true, of looking like a young Ford. The filmmakers found him doing impersonations online. (The studio provided a review copy.)