You can cancel your Botox appointments, ladies! The elusive key to eternal youth and beauty has been discovered, and apparently all it takes is some cold water and a little bit of lightning. Unbelievable, you say? Well, that’s just one of the glaring problems with The Age of Adaline, director Lee Toland Krieger’s far-fetched and glacially paced film about the first woman in history for whom the phrase “you haven’t aged a bit!” wouldn’t be a fib.
Born in 1908, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) has a relatively normal life in San Francisco, eventually marrying and having a daughter named Flemming. Tragically, her husband takes a fatal tumble off the Golden Gate Bridge during its construction in the 1930s. Soon after, Adaline is driving along a winding road when it miraculously begins to snow. Unused to driving in such conditions, her car careens into the ice-cold water; the accident stops her heart, but then a bolt of lightning jolts her back to life. That’s not all it does, however. The combination of a low body temperature and an electric shock causes her cells to become frozen in time, and as a result, poor Adaline has aged not a day since.
As the years fly by and her daughter becomes a teenager, Adaline’s juvenescence starts to become a problem. She still looks 25 at the age of 45, and people are taking notice. When she is pulled over by a policeman for a small infraction, he refuses to believe the age on her license and demands that she bring her birth certificate to the station. But instead of giving herself a mental high five for looking like a hottie in middle age, Adaline takes this as an ominous sign that her life is in danger, and she immediately flees town with only her suitcase. Later on, another scary encounter (this time with the FBI) prompts her to adopt her own personal witness-protection program, changing her identity and town every ten years.
The story then moves to present-day San Francisco, where, for the last ten years, Jenny (Adaline’s latest identity) has been passing time as an archivist. Flemming (Ellen Burstyn) is now in her eighties, having grown up largely without her mother (except for covert visits here and there). On New Year’s Eve, Jenny is captivated by a bearded hunk named Ellis (Michiel Huisman), who unabashedly hits on her during a long elevator ride. They begin to date, although Adaline knows it can’t last: She has just purchased the materials to embark on a new life in Oregon. However, when Ellis invites her on a trip to visit his parents, she allows herself a glimmer of hope that they might have a future together. But when his father William (Harrison Ford) lays eyes on Adaline, her carefully protected life starts to unravel.
The Age of Adaline manages to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of being both extraordinary and prosaic. When Adaline experiences her DNA transmutation, we start to imagine an epic journey through time, replete with all of the delicious accoutrements of fashion and form that represent each decade. We do get a little of that via fleeting flashbacks to the ’30s, ’40s, and ’60s, but it’s not nearly enough to satisfy. What we get instead is an elegiac look at a single woman with a not-so-dark secret, trying to work and date in contemporary San Francisco.
Speaking of that secret, one of the biggest problems in the screenplay -- by J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz -- is the vague motivation spurring Adaline to spend several decades hiding out like Dr. Richard Kimble after his wife turns up dead in The Fugitive. There is no murder or crime to speak of, and as her own daughter aptly points out, “No one is looking for you anymore.” Exactly: Now that 70 is the new 40, thanks to face-lifts and fillers and Retin-A creams, Adaline could take a trip down to Palm Beach and fit in just fine.
Lively shows glimpses of promise when she commits to the idea that she’s playing a woman who’s more than 100 years old. Early on, when she scolds a young man for throwing his life away making fake IDs (which she is buying in order to start her new life), she sounds like she’s talking to her grandson instead of a contemporary. But too often, she makes us forget that she’s geriatric, instead coming off like an angsty twentysomething facing a quarterlife crisis. Oddly enough, Burstyn has the same problem, as if one forever acts like a petulant teen when conversing with one’s mother. God forbid.
Perhaps if Adaline had been several centuries old instead of just one, or if she had a substantive threat following her for decades, we would care more about her plight. But as it stands, we just want to tell her to take a chill pill and blame her situation on her plastic surgeon.
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- Released: 2015
- Rating: R
- Review: You can cancel your Botox appointments, ladies! The elusive key to eternal youth and beauty has been discovered, and apparently all it takes is some cold water and a little bit of lightning. Unbelievable, you say? Well, that’s just one of the glaring probl… (more)