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Movie Review: ‘The Age of Adaline’ A Unique Premise Carried Out in a Less Than Unique Way

The-Age-of-Adaline-movie-posterBy Bob Carver

In case you can’t tell from the chilly April temperatures outside, we’re not in summer yet. Weather-wise, we won’t hit summer until June 21. Movie-wise, summer starts on May 1. The month that includes Memorial Day is known as the start of the summer movie season, kicking off with the new “Avengers” next weekend. No movie wants to do moderately well for one weekend and then get hammered by Thor, so this past weekend was a weak one for new releases; the calm before the storm, if you will. The only wide release brave or stupid enough to open in this slot was “The Age of Adaline,” a film that attracted so little interest that it opened in third place behind the fourth week of “Furious 7” and the second week of (ugh) “Paul Blart 2.” It’s a shame that the film didn’t drum up a lot of business, because it’s not as brainless as a lot of the films I’ve been seeing lately.

Blake Lively stars as Adaline, a 29-year-old widowed mother whose life changes forever one snowy winter’s night in 1937. She gets into a car wreck and things happen to her body that are both highly scientific and highly made-up (I got a hearty laugh out of the narration in this scene) and as a result, she doesn’t age. That goes for both her outward appearance and inside mechanisms. Flash forward to 2015: Adaline is 107 years old, her daughter (Ellen Burstyn) is moving to a retirement community, and she is still essentially 29.

I have to say, there are worse things you can be cursed with than looking like a 29-year-old Blake Lively for most of a century. This movie has a serious problem with explaining exactly what’s so bad about Adaline’s condition. Sure she’s seeing her loved ones grow old and die, but that would be happening even if she lived to be 107 the regular way. There’s a made-up conflict about her having to keep her condition a secret and run from the government because she’s afraid they want to turn her into a science experiment. I figure that even if government scientists do want to study her (and maybe save lives with what they find), I highly doubt that they’re going to jump right to dissection. Mostly Adaline just suffers from social anxiety which comes from hiding a secret, which is understandable but unfortunately boring.

We follow modern-day Adaline as she enters into a rare romantic relationship with Ellis (Michiel Huisman). He takes her home to meet his parents and it turns out that his father (Harrison Ford) is a former lover of Adaline’s from over 40 years ago. Adaline has to somehow protect her secrets (both her condition and her past) and figure out what in the world she’s going to do about her relationship with Ellis.

The film disappoints by focusing too much on the former. We have a million movies where characters have to protect secrets, but how often do we get to see a woman decide whether or not to pursue a relationship with the son of a former lover? Some would argue that there’s a good reason why we don’t see it often, but this film is tasteful enough that it could go a little deeper without being creepy.

“The Age of Adaline” has a unique premise that is carried out in a less-than-unique way with typical romantic banter and a tired secret-keeping storyline. At the very least, it could have done more with Adaline’s view of history; we get little more than a few scenes where she gives a firsthand account of an event that a 29-year-old could not have witnessed and then she punctuates it with, “or so I’ve been told.” Still, the film invests heavily in an unusual (some would say unappealing) setup at a time when most of what’s playing is frustratingly familiar.

Two Stars out of Five.

 “The Age of Adaline” is rated PG-13 for a suggestive comment. Its running time is 110 minutes.