The Age of Adaline (2015) / Romance-Fantasy

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for a suggestive comment
Running Time: 110 min.

Cast: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellyn Burstyn, Kathy Baker, Amanda Crew, Lynda Boyd, Hugh Ross (narrator), Anthony Ingruber
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Screenplay: J. Mills Goodloe, Salvador Paskowitz

Review published April 28, 2015

Given what lengths many go to in order to stay looking young, let's all hope that there aren't a bunch of women driving around Sonoma County, California, looking for snowfall in order to drive off the road into a river to certain death on the hope that they get zapped by lightning.  That's what happens to our titular protagonist in the 1930s, resulting in her springing back to life, only to find that her body has lost the ability to show any form of aging.

Adaline Bowman (Lively, Accepted) was born in 1908, growing up in a bustling and expanding San Francisco.  It was a normal upbringing; she grew into adulthood, married, and had a daughter named Flemming (Burstyn, Interstellar). An accident claimed her husband, then an accident claimed her -- almost -- as she drives off an icy road into freezing water, dying, but a zap of lightning to her vehicle miraculously resurrects her.  As she thaws, her body remains in a frozen state of sorts, as that was the last day she aged.

But life's not always great looking young and beautiful all of the time.  Her daughter soon has to pass for her sister, then her mother and then her grandmother, as Adaline realizes that she'll outlive everyone she loves.  Plus, she can't stay with the same identity when so many people think she's showing fraudulent documentation when she actually shows her authentic papers -- she can't pass for 50 when she barely looks half of that.  This leads to a life of instability, forced to continue to have to change because her body refuses to.

Flash forward to the present day, and Adaline, now going by the name of Jenny, works in a library, peeking in on occasion with her elderly daughter for the time being, while staying mostly away from the opposite sex to whom she will outlive.  That is until New Years Eve, 2014, when she meets the hunk-of-a-lifetime in the rich, handsome and successful Ellis (Huisman, Wild), who seems to only have eyes for her.  He won't take no for an answer, even though Adaline has serious misgivings, but obvious complications seem to always be major obstacles on the road to happiness for young (old) Adaline.

Three paragraphs just to relate a plot is a rarity on my site, which goes to show just how oddball this premise is.  This is one weird movie to relate, but that also is one of its saving graces.  It is, at once, snicker-worthy in execution, but still oddly compelling.  It's hard to pinpoint at any given moment if it is truly bad, so bad it's good, or merely just unconventionally good.  The screenplay by Goodloe (The Best of Me, A Gentleman's Game) and Paskowitz (Nick & Tristan Go Mega Dega) could have been downright atrocious in the wrong hands, and with the wrong cast. 

It's a goofy movie, with scenes involving the purchasing of fake IDs from the black market, blind best friends, boats buried underground, and discoveries that will be made two decades in our future.  Though it posits scientific breakthroughs, it throws out known science to tell its fantasy story.  It's a bit of a minor miracle that the movie actually holds these kooky narrative elements together, even ones that will be deemed cheesy by audiences that eat this up, so credit director Krieger (Celeste & Jesse Forever, The Vicious Kind) for taking the lopsided ball and running with it, straight-faced, all the way to the goal line.

Lively, not the generally thought of as a captivating actress, seems just right for this role, managing to exude elegance, grace, and beauty, and looks fantastic donning garb and hairstyles from any era.  She's supposed to play a woman far older than her years, and I think she manages to do it effectively, and sidesteps being too showy or obvious about it.  And if there's any actor who manages to sell the movie, it's Harrison Ford (The Expendables 3, Ender's Game), who not only delivers an honest and credible performance, it's his best work in many years.  Even Anthony Ingruber. the guy who plays the younger version of Harrison Ford's character, is a dead ringer for the actor in his 20s.  It's a solid cast all around. 

For those who are skeptical to romantic fantasies, it's probably not your bag.  Still, it's a good lot better than most of the Nicholas Sparks adaptations that play to the same crowd, and certainly benefits from having a premise so off-beat that it keeps our interest, even as you puzzle through the elements that make you question its worth, especially as the overly "helpful" narration to explain everything magical in layman's terms rears its head from time to time, seemingly spilling over from another movie (reminds me a bit of Truffaut's Jules and Jim).  It's not as good as Forrest Gump or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button but it plays in the same park of ideas.   It's a peculiar, uneven film, but it's never unwatchable; it's even entertaining in its own fashion.  It's a softly melodramatic cosmic romance, full of stars, comets, snowfall, colored lights, and interconnected dreams wished upon them all.

Qwipster's rating:

2015 Vince Leo