The Age of Adaline
Starring Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn, Kathy Baker
Blake Lively wasn’t the first or second choice for this lead, however the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants actress manages to make this her own, channeling a Renee Zellweger type performance. The film’s strongest element is the narration, which should sound very familiar if you liked The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The matter-of-fact voice originally used to deliver facts in the sleepy western is effective here in making Adaline’s story seem more important than we know it is. Impossible not to associate this film with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, both deal with age abnormalities; However ‘Button’ never continuously reminded us of it the way ‘Adaline’ does.
Adaline Bowman (Lively) was born in 1908, yet following the death of her husband, returning home to her daughter one evening, rare snow caused the young woman to hydroplane, crashing her car into a freezing river. Her heart stopped for two minutes until lightening revived her, stopping the aging genes in her body. From this moment on, Adaline would remain the same age. As her daughter (Burstyn) grows old, they tell people it’s her grandmother to avoid any suspicion. Adaline changes her name and location every decade to avoid the curiosities she has grown accustom to. Giving up on love and happiness over the past 100 years because if she can’t grow old with someone, what’s the point. Everything changes when she meets Ellis (Huisman) whose association with someone from her past will change everything.
The film’s strongest element is the narration.
Early in the story we get a somewhat detailed explanation as to why Adaline doesn’t age. We are told that the effect of freezing water and electrical charge to stun aging cells won’t be discovered until 2035. Certainly the romantic film is a fantasy, but like other romance films blending genres, The Time Travelers Wife, Beastly or Kate & Leopold it’s difficult to feel the emotion through the ridiculousness. If the script wasn’t so interested in reminding us through Trivial Pursuit, “long term” stock investments, or dialogue like “I get that all the time”, we might be able to focus on more important issues. Lively’s character is written as abrasive and chilly but the actress still manages to make us find some sympathy for her situation.
‘Button’ was a better film because of its scope, universal appeal and for disallowing the age element to consume the rest of the picture. One errs on the side of poetic irony, self-reflection and epic storytelling, while the other is filled with gushing sentimentality, a magical explanation and a predictable happy ending. With ‘Button’ you feel the precious and fleeting moments of life that are so beautifully captured in longevity and relationships. ‘Adaline’ is nothing but silly anecdotes captured in a brief moment of the characters life, sure there are flash backs, but we never feel her exhaustion for living so long. Contemplating ‘Button’ after multiple viewings, only enriches the experience, yet the more you think about ‘Adaline’ the more obvious and ridiculous the crowd pleaser reveals itself as a film that will be quickly forgotten.
If Lifetime had their way with Benjamin Button it might look something like this.