‘The Age of Adaline’ a timeless romance
“The Age of Adaline” has all the elements of a romantic fantasy you should hate.
The story hinges both on mystical nonsense and wild coincidences.
At times, the movie is shot to look like a feminine hygiene commercials, complete with tinkling pianos and soft-focus shots of nature.
And the male romantic lead is so perfect — handsome, educated, charming, polite, cultured, understanding and patient to a fault — he’s the type of character who only exists in dumb romantic fantasies.
But “The Age of Adaline” — and really as a cynic who usually hates romantic movies full of woo-woo I’m surprised to write this — works despite those eye-rolling elements.
The story, about a woman who stops aging at the age of 29 in the early 20th Century, is intriguing and handled with intelligence and surprising poignancy.
The screenplay asks a question most stories about ageless characters — vampires and their ilk — usually don’t ask: What’s it like to never age as everyone you know and love grows old and dies.
In one somber scene, the ageless Adaline (Blake Lively) thumbs through a photo album of all the pets who have been part of her life. It has dozens of pictures — something that will hit everyone who has ever lost a beloved pet like a punch in the stomach.
Even more emotionally effective is Adaline’s relationship with her daughter, who as the movie goes on first catches up with her mother’s age and then surpasses it.
So we get the odd scene of an elderly Ellen Burstyn playing the daughter of a woman who looks like she be her grand daughter.
Both Lively and Burstyn play those scenes brilliantly, with a sense of sadness and knowledge that the mother will one day not to soon will outlive her daughter.
The main story focus of the movie, though, is the romance between Adaline and the rich and impossibly perfect Ellis (Michiel Huisman).
Adaline, knowing the relationship has no future, tries her best to be cold and distant when Ellis pursues her, but is eventually worn down by his charms. She even eventually agrees to meet his parents, which leads to a plot twist that relies on a coincidence revolving around Ellis’ father (Harrison Ford) that’s hard to buy. (We won’t provide any spoilers here, so don’t worry.)
That coincidence does allow Harrison Ford some powerful moments, though. And he’s so good here you can almost excuse the screenplay’s manipulative streak.
What really makes “The Age of Adaline” work as well as it does is Lively’s performance. Yes, it’s a remote and at times icy performance, but it makes sense for a character who understandably doesn’t want to get close to anyone. Adaline knows only heartbreak will come with human connections, and Lively captures that sadness perfectly.
In the end, “The Age of Adaline” asks some poignant questions about life, love, aging and death — something unexpected from a weepy romantic fantasy. Those questions boil down to this: When your future is endless and the finish line never comes, would a race really be worth the effort?
The answer in “The Age of Adaline” is a poignant no — and that’s something to admire despite some of the movie’s manipulations and contrivances.
★ ★ ★ ☆
‘The Age of Adaline’
Now playing: Century 14 Northridge Mall, Maya Salinas 14 Cinemas
MPAA rating: PG-13 for a suggestive comment.
Film facts: Stars Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker. Directed by Lee Toland Krieger. 110 minutes.
BOTTOM LINE: This romantic fantasy about a woman (a wonderful Blake Lively) who doesn’t age is full of poignant questions about life, love, aging and death.