The Age Of Adaline (2015) Review

Drama Film Reviews Film Hub
4

Poor

The Age of Adaline, directed by Lee Toland Krieger (Celeste and Jesse Forever) isn’t the first romantic drama to borrow fantastical concepts in order to reach a wider audience. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, About Time, and Meet Joe Black have all used similar supernatural elements to elevate their respective stories to varying degrees. The Age of Adaline attempts to tell a modern-day fairy tale about an ageless woman, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively), struggling with the mortality surrounding her while never having to face it herself. Regrettably, the film gets sidetracked with Adaline’s predictable and unengaging romance with the philanthropic millionaire Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman).

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The ambiguous, slightly sardonic narrator informs us that Adaline Bowman, widower and mother of one, was involved in a car accident in the 1930s and through a mixture of death, hypothermia, and the “magical” powers of lightning was given the gift of eternal youth. The cause of her agelessness is quickly brushed over without a second thought, which is readily acceptable in the case of a typical fantasy plot. The years begin to pass and Adeline remains a 29 year old in appearance – no wrinkles, no gray hairs, nothing to indicate her true age. While initially this sounds ideal, it proves too good to be true as those around her, including some shady government officials, slowly begin taking notice of this peculiarity and start demanding answers. Adaline is forced to go on the run, leaving behind her college-aged daughter in the process. She remains vigilant, constantly relocating to various countries and acquiring new identification in order to keep the interested parties off of her trail. However, matters of the heart eventually interfere and she is forced to confront some hard truths and choices after a series of serendipitous events.

The Age of Adaline loosely plays with the narrative, jumping back and forth between time periods freely during the first act of the film, and it’s during these moments that the film truly comes alive. We are given glimpses into Adaline’s fascinating life during several different decades, watching as she begins noticing the consequences and drawbacks of her “gift”. As previously mentioned, these are only glimpses, and the film eventually settles into the meandering romance taking place in the completely ordinary ‘here-and-now’. Instead of a sprawling epic in the vein of Forrest Gump, we are treated to a watered-down Nicholas Sparks-esque yarn.

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The film rests on the shoulders of Blake Lively who feels miscast, choosing to give Adaline a very cold and rigid demeanor. It’s clear that Lively wanted to imbue Adaline with the wisdom and grace of a person who has experienced all that she could within 107 years. Instead, the character comes across as a needlessly stubborn and indifferent know-it-all. Part of the blame can be aimed towards the script, but I can’t help but feel that if recast with a different actress (perhaps Natalie Portman, who was previously sought after for Adaline’s role), we would have had a much more sympathetic and engaging Adaline.

Faring much better are the two male leads found in Adaline’s two main love interests. Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones, Orphan Black) handles his first mainstream leading role superbly, bringing wit and charisma to a character that is as farfetched as the source of Adaline’s fantastical attribute. Huisman’s character, Ellis, is the male equivalent to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. Ellis is blatantly flawless in nearly every conceivable way. He is handsome, rugged, quirky, brilliant, wealthy and philanthropic…the closest his character comes to having a flaw is that he is really persistent in his crush on Adaline, almost stalker-ish…but like Adaline, we forgive him, because he is Mr. Right, after all.

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Harrison Ford appears in the convoluted third act as Ellis’ father and Adaline’s former lover William Jones. Although his character’s introduction occurs so late in the film that his inclusion serves to needlessly extend an already overly long film. Harrison Ford is given some of the film’s most tender and earnest moments. His work as Adaline’s aged former love is undeniably moving and heartfelt, displaying an intensity and sincerity that has largely been absent from his roles in the past decade.

The Age of Adaline’s biggest failing lies within the script, which when compared to other similarly themed films, simply fails to deliver on its fantastical premise or its heavily focused romance. Structurally, the script never quite knows how to handle the wondrous moments that inherently come from a heroine who never ages. We are never allowed to see Adaline have fun with or embrace her gift, which provides the film with a very somber and dour atmosphere. On the other hand, the script doesn’t want to fully explore the themes of mortality that are constantly being referenced. We are never privy to the more emotionally-gripping scenes of loss or death, aside from one small moment with her pet cocker spaniel…something most of us go through in our ordinary lives without the gift of eternal youth.

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The central attraction of the film is the romance between Adaline and Ellis, and while they are both very attractive people, there is no chemistry between the two. Though Michiel Huisman is very endearing and sweet, the pair’s interactions feel clinical and calculated due to Adaline’s withholding nature. The script prevents the characters from getting to know each other, and as a result, the audience isn’t allowed to fully understand or embrace either character. The languid romance between the two is nothing short of an inevitable slog, content to rely on worn-out romantic tropes as it lurches along to the happy ending we all know is waiting for the couple.

The Age of Adaline is inoffensive romantic counter-programming, offering nothing new or exciting to a genre filled with vastly superior options. There are definitely things to like in the film: mostly great, likeable performances and competent, if unspectacular, direction and editing. Still, the film ultimately remains crippled by the lifeless and dull romance on which it hinges. There are some good moments sprinkled throughout The Age of Adaline, but those moments aren’t enough to help the film rise to anything above an unambitious and simple romantic drama that lacks any real magic.

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Good

  • Michiel Huisman is charismatic and endearing in his first mainstream leading role
  • Harrison Ford gives one of his best performances of the last decade
  • The different time periods look authentic and lovingly detailed

Bad

  • Blake Lively feels miscast, playing Adaline with a cold indifference that doesn't gel with the film's romantic focus
  • Too much emphasis on the romance in the present undercuts Adaline’s fascinating backstory and the various decades she lived through
  • There is absolutely no chemistry between Adaline and either of her two love-interests, resulting in a lifeless and unaffecting romantic drama
4

Poor

Ryan Demarest
Ryan is a graphic designer by day and cinephile by night. Originally from North Carolina where one of his first jobs was as a clerk at a local video store, he now resides in Indiana with his wife. He has always stayed connected to the world of film, video gaming, and comics. He is proud to be a nerd, and embraces his passion for these industries. He is truly still a “kid at heart”. His favorite movies include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Avengers, and Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2. His favorite video games include the Mass Effect series, the Rock Band series, and Mega Man 2.
  • Summons75

    I have to disagree with this review. I’m not into romance movies normally but taking my other half on a date she wanted to see this so I happily took her. I found the movie really good.

    “We are never allowed to see Adaline have fun with or embrace her gift, which provides the film with a very somber and dour atmosphere.”
    There is a very clear reason we don’t see her embrace or have fun with her gift. The movie makes it VERY clear she is afraid of her gift and being discovered. Which is why she ran from the FBI and why in the first 5 minutes of the film it establishes that every 10 years she moves to a completely different location with a completely new name and changes her looks so even if she does run into someone she can go unnoticed or say she is just the daughter of herself.

    Your negative of not seeing enough backstory isn’t right. Sure I would love to see all thee different eras she lived in but if she is afraid of her gift and she even says she doesn’t care for history, showing all this would completely contradict her character and ruin the movie. The movie is about her finally letting love back into her life and allowing herself to live for once in the past 80 years. We see enough backstory to know about her and give us insight into certain actions that are paralleling her life in the 60s and the history between her and Harrison Ford’s character (who I agree did an amazing performance which was really the only reason I was okay going into the movie).

    It was a really good movie, nowhere as bad you paint it to be but this was well written.

  • Ryan Demarest

    Thanks for the comment and thanks for your perspective! I’m glad you enjoyed the movie; many other people have as well. I think the film’s been getting pretty mixed reviews, with a lot of people completely on board, and some people who were less than impressed. Personally, I do enjoy a good romance and hoped for more when paired with a supernatural element. Without a strong romance between Adaline and Ellis (again, in my opinion), the film needs something more to make it stand out above the typical rom-com conventions…which is why I wanted some levity and more focus on her past. It doesn’t make sense for the character or the story she occupies – you’re right. After the movie, I was left unsatisfied, wanting the story/characters to be reworked. Not a horrible movie by any means, just could have done more to be effective in my opinion.

    I do appreciate your thoughtful insight, and thank you again for reading and commenting!

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