Age of Adaline is a romance with a neat fantasy hook, but it struggles to find its purpose until it is almost too late.
Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively stars as Adaline Bowman, a woman born at the turn of the 20th century who, through some scientific mumbo-jumbo that is essentially magic, ceases to age.
The film basically takes the throwaway concept of Twilight, where the family that doesn’t age moves around all the time, and explores it more fully.
A lot of the story is told in memories and flashbacks, attempting to weave the current story in with Adaline’s long and layered past. Lively affects a breathy, nonchalant voice that is obviously intended to evoke feelings of the early 1900s. It seems like it shouldn’t work, but her persistence and dedication end up creating the feeling that she really may be from a different time. A lot of the fun of the film is found in the little anachronisms that pop up in Adaline’s daily life.
Honestly, Lively carries the film from start to finish. That may be obvious considering she has the title role, but she is on screen for pretty much the entire runtime. Her timeless charm and classiness lend her character some much-needed believability. Adaline is also quite intelligent and self-motivating, a nice change from traditional modern romances.
Her love interest Ellis Jones, played by Michiel Huisman, is actually a bit of a surprise. Huisman made it big for his supporting role on Game of Thrones, but his performance here suggests that he could be a good leading man as well. He’s not the conventional Hollywood attractive, but he’s certainly not unfortunate-looking. His main strength, besides his muscles, is his childlike excitement and eagerness. It’s hard not to want him to win because he’s just so darn likeable.
Unfortunately, the movie isn’t all great. There are some serious problems that hold it back.
The first 10 minutes, for instance, are dull. Really dull. The film begins with a tacky voiceover from an unrelated narrator that goes on for far too long. There’s some voiceover at the end too, but it’s much shorter. Just as unnecessary, but shorter. The story would have been better served by exploring the moments that are related via voiceover in the actual movie.
Some of the dialogue is a bit cheesy, but it is a romance movie and that’s kind of expected. In fact, there are several points when the film almost tries to avoid being a traditional romance movie, and it’s in those moments that it loses its vitality. It strives to make Adaline a traditional love interest, but it also tries to have her be above it all, turning her wishy-washy and a little less interesting. It’s a more realistic story, sure, but it’s not the story that it really wants to tell.
The real meat of the movie, the interesting storyline that makes it worth watching, doesn’t start until well after halfway through, probably closer to the 75 percent mark.
The rest of the movie is cute, but average. Here is the story only this movie can tell, and it spends far too little time with it. It is by far the best part of the film, but it resolves too quickly for any real satisfaction to be had.
Despite its flaws, Age of Adaline is a lovely film. The cinematography often evokes something a bit more indie, the score is fantastical and the costume department must have had a field day picking out all of Adaline’s pretty outfits. There are both heartbreaking and heartwarming moments, but most importantly, Age of Adaline never loses its sense of exuberance. It’s time well spent.