The Sterling Standard in Movie Reviews 

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Looks Good for Her Age

 112 Minutes
Rated: PG-13
Directed byLee Toland Krieger
Starring: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman
Age of Adaline

One of the reasons for the undying popularity of vampires in film and literature is the allure of eternal youth. Sure, being a bloodsucker has its disadvantages: they have to hang around blood banks a lot and they can absolutely forget about getting a suntan. However, as long as they get their daily beauty sleep and avoid sharp stakes, they can keep looking suave and sexy for centuries (on the other hand, being Nosferatu forever wouldn’t be so hot).


However, the real downside of eternal youth, if it exists, is part of its surface allure. While the youthful one remains that way year after year, loved ones will age, wither, and die. Growing old with a spouse or lover offers comfort with its sadness; watching them go through it alone brings only sadness. Similarly, outliving one’s children while having them mistaken for parents is also a gloomy thought.


How would a person deal with such a blessing (or curse) in the real world? That’s the key question of The Age of Adaline, a movie about a hundred-year-old woman locked in the body of a 30-year old. Born shortly after the San Francisco earthquake, Adaline (Blair Lively) was an ordinary woman until the age of 29 when a freak auto accident and lightning strike arrested her aging process. Ever since, she’s appeared the exact same age, although her daughter continues to age into adulthood.


Adaline’s continuing youth starts to garner unwanted attention, especially from some shadowy government types, so she engineers the first of many disappearances. After her narrow escape from the authorities, she takes all possible measures to stay under the radar. Every ten years, she changes cities and identities and never makes close friends or develops romantic entanglements. The only person who knows her secret is her now elderly daughter, Flemming (Ellen Burstyn). Ironically, Adaline’s planned next move is to Oregon, where she’ll be able to look after her daughter in her declining years.


Adaline’s best intentions change when she meets the perfect man, Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman). He’s rich, handsome, a witty conversationalist, and an all-around nice guy, but Adaline is still unsure whether she wants to get serious with any man. However, after a talk with her daughter, Adaline accepts Ellis’ invitation to go to his house to meet his parents.


When she gets there, Adaline is in for a big shock. Ellis’ father, William Jones (Harrison Ford) turns out to be the only other man with whom Adaline got serious since she stopped aging. Some 40 years earlier, she met William, then a medical student, in Europe and a whirlwind romance ensued. But rather than commit to him, she stood him up when he intended to propose and never spoke to him since then. Adaline (who now calls herself Jenny) responds to the older William by claiming to be the original Adaline’s daughter.


Eventually, William sees through Adaline’s ruse and, after she reveals why she ran out on him years earlier, he asks her to remain with his son for both their sakes. Needless to say, all these events have shaken Adaline up considerably, and she has to decide once and for all whether to allow another person into her highly unusual life.


Obviously, a premise this convoluted requires a massive suspension of disbelief, and Adaline overplays its hand here. During the film’s overly long prologue, its narrator attempts a pseudo-scientific explanation that is far too complicated. Either the audience believes the premise (as they do in a vampire story) or they don’t, and no amount of bogus explanation will make the film any more plausible.


Further, the briefly touched upon subplot of shadowy government types trying to kidnap Adaline in the 1950s for research purposes adds an improbable and, more important, wrong touch to the proceedings. The mere fact that a 45-year-old woman looks like she’s 30 would not trigger a government manhunt, even among the most paranoid McCarthyite. It merely gives screenwriters a convenient hook to send Adaline into hiding for decades.


Plotting quibbles aside, once Adaline meets Ellis, the movie begins to work as a romance. The dialogue between them is quite well written, and Lively and Huisman have great chemistry. They even have a couple of movie-improbable but incredibly romantic dates at highly unique locations (someone either researched San Francisco very well or has a terrific imagination). The chemistry between Lively and Huisman is nothing, however, compared to the impact of Harrison Ford on the movie.


Ford is over 70 but still a commanding presence who is too seldom seen onscreen now. His lost love for Adaline, the memories of which are rekindled, makes the film resonate. This isn’t just a man reminiscing about the girl who got away. William’s wife (Kathy Baker) realizes the attraction, which is mutual (and scary for Adaline), and there’s a feeling of self-sacrifice on his part that completes this most bizarre romantic triangle.


As the woman in the middle, Blake Lively has a nearly impossible role and she acquits herself reasonably well. She never seems quite right (in large part due to a hairstyle that doesn’t fit) in her modern day persona, but, ironically, that’s to be expected, since she’s a woman who’s never quite come to terms with the predicament in which she finds herself. It’s only her relationship with her “daughter” Ellen Burstyn that doesn’t work. The older actress takes the lead in these scenes together and plays the role as if she’s the mother, not the daughter.


I’d like to say I’ve never seen anything like The Age of Adaline before but that’s not true. It’s very similar to the current television series, Forever, with the main difference being that Forever has had seemingly forever (actually an entire season) to establish its character and the dilemma he faces (and, as yet, has not fully resolved). Adaline cuts corners a good bit (especially a far-too-convenient ending), but does the same thing in two hours.


As far as actual cinematic inspirations, The Age of Adaline most closely resembles Somewhere in Time, the Christopher Reeve/Jane Seymour time travel romance that has the same feel of lovers separated by time. Indeed, the dilemma Adaline faces and the way it impacts her relation with both William and Ellis make the current movie memorable. It’s not a perfect film romance (I wish it had ended differently), but it’s one that will probably withstand the test of time.

Read other reviews of The Age of Adaline:


The Age of Adaline (2015) on IMDb