Dec 20, 2016
The Age of Adaline (2015)
Have you ever wondered how it would feel to stand still in time while everyone else in the world aged and died around you? Or, perhaps you catch yourself looking in the mirror from time to time wondering if there’s any way you could stop another crow’s-foot from popping up around your once flawless eyes? No matter how you feel, the human race has always tried to postpone the aging experience. This fascinating concept has hit the big screen time and again, most recently in Lee Toland Krieger’s The Age of Adaline.
In 1908, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) is born into a pretty average life. Apart from her parents having quite a bit of money, she doesn’t differ much from anyone else of the time. She marries and gives birth to a daughter, which seems to put her on the right track in life. However, not long after her daughter’s birth, her husband is killed in an accident. Adaline’s parents try to help her pick up the pieces by watching her daughter.
One day, as Adaline drives to her parents’ home to pick up her daughter, a small miracle occurs. It begins to snow, a rarity in this part of California. Adaline, stunned by the freak weather, loses control of her vehicle and drives into a lake. Adaline dies due to the freezing water, but is revived shortly after when lighting strikes the lake.
At first, everything in Adaline’s life seems normal after the wreck, but years pass and her appearance never changes. After a decade of looking the same age, people begin to question if it’s truly Adaline’s good genes or if something fishy is going on. She even garners the attention of two FBI agents who try to take her into custody. Luckily, with age, Adaline’s intelligence has grown, so she’s quickly able to figure out a way to escape.
From that point on, Adaline introduces herself as her daughter’s “friend”, and later, her daughter’s own daughter to throw curious people off her trail. Every decade she comes up with a new fake identity and enjoys a slightly normal life, mainly by choosing friends with vision impairments. She works in fields that don’t draw a lot of attention, avoids cameras, and never starts up a romantic relationship, with the exception of one mistake.
It isn’t until one New Year’s Eve party in the current year that her clever disguise begins to unravel. We learn she’s currently calling herself “Jenny Larson”, and as she leaves to go home, a young man, Ellis (Michiel Huisman), jumps in the elevator with her to insist on a date, but she declines. The next day, when she goes to her job at the library, Ellis shows up to donate some rare books. He insists Jenny personally accept the donation in a photo for the local newspaper. When she refuses, he tells her he won’t donate the books unless she goes to lunch with him. She caves and ends up spending the afternoon in a location that actually intrigues her.
Although Ellis is able to provide her with the mental stimulation she’s often craved but never received, she informs him she simply can’t see him anymore because she’s moving soon. However, this plan later changes when she meets him for dinner. She’s swept off her feet, and before she knows it, she agrees to visit his parents for their 40th wedding anniversary. Things go askew when Ellis’s father William (Harrison Ford) instantly recognizes Jenny as Adaline, a former girlfriend of his.
She plays it off by saying Adaline was actually her mother, but William is still left in a daze over flashbacks to when he was young and in love with Adaline (and these flashbacks notably feature newcomer Anthony Ingruber doing a dead-on impersonation of a young Harrison Ford). His nostalgia gets the best of him and he decides to go through old photos, which causes him to recognize a scar that the Adaline he knew had, and which “Jenny” also has. He confronts her about it, and she finally admits her secret, but then she decides to run, just as she always has.
William tells Ellis that Adaline’s gone, so Ellis decides to go after her. While on the road, it suddenly begins to snow again, and again Adaline ends up in a car accident. As she lays on the ground freezing, Ellis shows up and calls an ambulance. The EMTs use a defibrillator on her, which apparently reboots her aging process and she goes back to aging normally. Thus, Adaline finally gets the chance to lead a normal life. Later, she explains everything to Ellis and the two begin their life together.
In theory, Age of Adaline should be a great movie all about the tragedy of living way longer than everyone around you. However, when committed to film, this story just didn’t flow as it should have. Sure, the concept of a freak accident making someone ageless is pretty cool, but freezing to death and then being revived by electrocution is a little farfetched for my not-so-scientific mind. Yes, I get that it’s just a movie, but it seems like they could have come up with something a bit more believable to set the plot in motion.
When I first heard about this film, I thought I was going to see Adaline move through time, defining her life and personality over 100 ageless years. But I was pretty much disappointed, because apart from a glimpse of the beginning of her life, and a couple of flashbacks from a prior romance, there’s no real history here. We quickly go from Adaline the grieving widow to Adaline on the run to Adaline the 21st Century woman. It’s all very bland, especially when so much more could have been done with her agelessness.
I assume the full implications of her condition were downplayed largely because this movie is a romance, so I guess they had to make it so that the only thing worth sharing about this woman, apart from her ability to stay 29 forever, is her two major romances. I get it; it’s the power of love and all that jazz, but she lived through some pretty interesting periods in history. You’d think she would be shaped into an incredible woman who’s just as fascinating as Ellis makes her out to be. Instead, Adaline was a pretty flat character that didn’t inspire much emotion at all.
The one big thing about this plot that bothers me is the woman falls in love with a man, bails on him, and then decades later falls in love with his son. I’m not entirely sure if I’d want to form a romantic bond with someone who almost married my parent. Likewise, I’m not sure, as a parent, that I would be able to handle the fact that someone I once wanted to propose to was now sleeping with my child. It’s a little weird, but maybe I’m just behind the times.
Another factor that bugs me is that Adaline doesn’t seem all that bothered by her friends and family all aging and dying off around her; in fact, it’s hardly ever alluded to. You’d think that it would be almost unbearable for her to watch everyone who’s near and dear to her go away. Even Adaline’s daughter (Ellen Burstyn)—who has to pretend to be her own mother’s grandmother—seems to have very few years left, and Adaline appears to be perfectly fine with this. And with the prospect of a normal life with Ellis, she casually reverts back to being a 29 year old who isn’t about to lose her only child to old age.
Also, you should be warned that a dog dies, which is probably the worst thing to ever happen in any movie.
All the same, if you’re looking for a fun, light sci-fi-ish film to watch in your free time, then you might skip this one. There’s some feels, but not in the areas there should be. Plus, the twists in this storyline could easily be cracked by an eight year old who would rather be watching something from Pixar.