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Age of Adaline, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Time Won't Let Her"
4 stars

"The Age of Adaline" is a romantic fantasy that appears to have been constructed out out of portions of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," any random Nicolas Sparks novel and a coffee table book of "Vogue" fashion layouts from over the years run through a duck press so as to fuse them together, however haphazardly, into one single narrative. Not surprisingly, the final product is pretty much as ridiculous as can be and will no doubt be slammed by most observers as being little more than shamelessly manipulative claptrap. And yet, while I cannot argue that it is anything other than complete nonsense from beginning to end, I must confess to feeling a certain amount of affection for it nevertheless thanks to a couple of strong performances, some stylish filmmaking and the occasional willingness on its part to recognize just how goofy the entire enterprise is.

Our heroine is Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) and when we first see her in present-day San Francisco, she appears to be in her mid-to-late 20's, tops, but as it turns out, there is a lot more to her than meets the eye. In a series of flashbacks, an unnamed narrator (Hugh Ross) matter-of-factly informs us that Adaline was actually born on January 1, 1908 and had a life that was utterly ordinary--she married an engineer, had a daughter and lost her husband in an accident during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge--until the fateful night in which a car accident sent her plunging to her death in a freezing river one unexpectedly snowy California night and an errant bolt of lightning not only jolted her back to life but somehow managed to permanently freeze her aging process in the bargain. (The explanation for how this is achieved is one of the funniest bits in the entire film--deliberately so, for once.) This is fine for a while but once Adaline is in her mid-40's and looks no older than her own daughter, the only person who knows her secret, she realizes that the only way to avoid suspicion is to change her look, identity and locale every decade or so and, more importantly, avoid personal relationships as much as possible.

Although it results in a certain degree of loneliness, this approach works well for Adaline over the next few decades as she travels the world, makes shrewd investments (nothing like getting in on the ground floor with Xerox) and otherwise makes the best of her odd predicament. Alas, it all begins to fall apart on New Years Eve, 2014, when she attends a party and makes the acquaintance of Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman), a hunky tech genius who begins pursuing her with a fervor that borders on the obsessive. Despite his smarminess (not only does he give off the weasly vibe of the doomed dope in "Die Hard," he even has the same first name), Adaline eventually begins to succumb to his charms and while she is not quite ready to open up to him about her secret, she does agree to go off with him to the 40th anniversary celebration of his parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker) in order to meet his family. Suffice it to say, things do not go exactly as planned.

As I said, "The Age of Adaline" is as absurd as it can be and it is to the credit of screenwriters J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz that they manage to hold to together for as long as they do without letting it spin completely out of control into either silliness or mawkishness. The set-up is relatively clever and the flashbacks that are incorporated into the action to flesh out Adaline's story do a good job of filling in the blanks, occasionally with a welcome bit of wit and without overloading the narrative. To be sure, there are things that don't work--there is some nonsense involving a comet that Ellis's father discovered but which has yet to make its trip near Earth and some other lumpy scenes here and there--but the combination of romance and humor helps viewers get through the rough spot. For his part, director Lee Toland Krieger manages to keep things moving along without getting bogged down in the plot details that can ruin this type of romantic fantasy and also does an excellent job of evoking the different eras in which Adaline goes through without overwhelming the material with kitschy period details.

Having been the star of one of my favorite television shows of recent years--the glory that was "Gossip Girl"--I am more than inclined to have a kind disposition towards Blake Lively and while her previous efforts at big-screen stardom, such as "Green Lantern" and "Savages," failed to do much for her career, her work here impresses throughout. Instead of indulging in the kind of hammy histrionics that a story of this type might suggest, she plays the role closer to the vest--as Adaline herself does throughout her life--and the result is an undeniable winning and appealing performance. An even bigger surprise is that while Harrison Ford only appears on the scene in the second half of the film, he delivers with a performance that is far more focused and nuanced than anything that he has done in quite some time. As Adaline's now-aged daughter, Ellen Burstyn also gets a few nice moments as well in which she somehow manages to sell some of the film's most potentially smarmy moments.

"The Age of Adaline" is not perfect by any means and there are plenty of moments throughout that will no doubt inspire snarky comments from some viewers--I will freely admit that even I thought of a few while watching it. And yet, despite its imperfections and despite the fact that it doesn't quite have the overwhelming emotional impact of such similar films as "Benjamin Button" and Francis Coppola's "Youth Without Youth," I still found myself succumbing to its charms just enough to kinda, sorta recommend it after all. As bizarre and borderline implausible romance movies of late go, I would easily take this over such nonsense as "Fifty Shades of Grey" or "The Longest Ride" in a heartbeat. It may not be flawless but as a way of passing a couple of hours, it proves to be time more or less well spent.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=27814&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/23/15 21:32:41
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User Comments

6/01/15 Man Out Six Bucks Any film requiring extensive narration to follow is stillborn 1 stars
5/03/15 stanley welles a preposterous premise treated with great solemnity 1 stars
4/27/15 Bob Dog Solid old school romance! 5 stars
4/26/15 Oyvind Brubaker I want to bugger Blake Lively 5 stars
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  24-Apr-2015 (PG-13)
  DVD: 08-Sep-2015


  DVD: 08-Sep-2015

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