Every now and again I get tickets to advance screenings of films, and because I’m not the New York Times, they’re usually not big films. Let’s Be Cops was the last one….so that gives you an idea of my place in the film community review hierarchy. The trailer for The Age of Adaline was so painful, that even with free tickets, it was a game time decision on whether I go, but I will tell you what I told the studio rep: “This movie was so much better than I ever expected from the crap trailer you released.” I could’ve been nicer about that.
The trailer makes this film look like an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks novel (not a compliment), and what it really mostly succeeds at being is a fairy tale. Adaline (Blake Lively) through an incredibly contrived set of circumstances that they should have probably just chalked up to magic, stops aging at the age of 29. The rest of the film is a very grounded answer to the question: What would it really be like to never age?
In theory, it sounds great. In practice, it ends up being a nightmare. How long do you think, even to your closest friends and family, could you explain not aging a day? A decade? Maybe at the outside. Adaline finds that it ranges between 7-10 years and then the questions start as old friends bump into her who are her age and look 30 years her senior. Her daughter quickly catches and passes her in appearance until in modern-day she’s in her mid 80’s (played by Ellen Burstyn). The reverse mother/daughter dynamic between Lively and Burstyn is one of the best parts of the film.
So Adaline moves. Every decade, she’ll vanish from her life and reappear in a new place with a new identity. Her only close friend is blind. She can’t form attachments, make connections, have relationships, etc. There’s a particularly affecting scene when you realize how many dogs she’s had during her 106-year-old life, and those are the closest relationships she can form. Then, just as she’s about to pull her latest disappearance, she meets THE GUY, and the movie nearly goes from semi-SciFi to treacly romantic nonsense until Han Solo saves the movie.
I’m not sure what kicked Harrison Ford in the can and made him start putting himself into his roles again, but he delivers an outstanding supporting role as the father of Adaline’s new love. The problem is that he turns out to be the man Adaline nearly married fifty years ago and the poor guy thinks he’s losing his mind when his son brings home his past and plops it in his living room.
There are so many ways this film could have gone off the rails into eye-rolling territory, and I honestly think this film is more suited for a different audience than, well, me, but I completely appreciate what they accomplished here. It’s overly sweet and pat for me, but that’s the genre they’re coming from and in the meantime, they very cleverly ground this premise in some very affecting ways. Just how hard it is for her to keep disappearing in the information age is dealt with is a grounded detail most films of this ilk wouldn’t even bother addressing. The cast all turn in great performances. This is, by far, the best job I’ve ever seen Blake Lively do in anything, and I’m telling you, the actor they got to play Harrison Ford in his 20’s could do that for a living. The only problem I had with the cast is I thought a better narrator (and I realize Morgan Freeman can’t narrate everything) would have really sold the whole premise better than the one in the film.
I thought April was going to be a month completely devoid of any fun at the movies and I got two surprises in Furious 7 and The Age of Adaline. If this sounds like the kind of film that would interest you, go support it in the theater, because Avengers 2 is going to smash it like a crepe come next weekend. If you miss it in theaters, check it out when it comes out on video. It’s worth your time, and thank you, Indiana Jones, for making my day twice this month (see Episode VII trailer).