The Age of Adaline is one of those movies where the premise doesn’t make much sense and the coincidences might not always be believable, but you’re completely won over by the magic. It’s not as original of a take on its themes of love and transience as a film like In Time, but it’s an enchanting, beautifully made live-action fairy tale.
Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively kills it as Adaline Bowman, a timeless beauty blessed and cursed with eternal youth after a mysterious accident. Lively is 27, but she’s completely convincing as the movie’s 107-year-old leading lady; she carries herself with an old world glamour and at times almost grandmotherly dignity. The movie never bogs the audience down with too much information regarding Adaline’s years of constant travel under various aliases. However, we do learn that she’s had enough time on her hands to study several languages, and develop a skill for observation and deduction to rival Sherlock Holmes. I loved these details, because unlike other romantic movies, we actually get a sense of why the male lead falls so quickly for Adaline. Blake Lively is so stunning that the director could have taken the easy route in explaining her character’s love story with some extra shots of her in gorgeous period costumes, leaving the audience thinking, “Of course he’s nuts about her, look at her!” Instead, the movie takes the time to create a fascinating, compelling, and quietly vulnerable heroine.
Lively’s performance is the biggest asset (and highest selling point) of the movie, but she’s surrounded by some game supporting actors. The central plot involves Adaline falling for quirky Ellis (Michiel Huisman) despite her fear that her condition would mean any attachments could end only in heartbreak. Despite some pushy behavior that comes across as kind of creepy at first, Ellis is a genuinely interesting, winning love interest, and has lovely chemistry with Adaline. There’s remarkable acting in the scenes between Adaline and Flemming (Ellen Burstyn), who looks like her grandmother, but is in fact her daughter. There are also some memorable supporting performances from Harrison Ford and some guy named Anthony Ingruber, (who’s only in there for like 5 minutes, but he’s pretty damn fine).
Some viewers might take issue with the “scientific” explanation for Adaline’s condition, but I thought it was fine- I mean, it’s a fictional movie. The story-book style narration of her accident and the cleverly invoke discoveries made “in 2035″ add to its fairytale magic.What the movie fails to explain well are Adaline’s reasons for fearing government detection, and her fear of romantic attachment. It’s easy to assume why the fear of heartbreak and solitude are central to her character, but what the audience sees of Adaline’s loss is mostly limited to a long line of pet dogs. If the movie devoted more time uncovering the mystery of Adaline’s relationship with her first husband, we could understand the depth of her inner turmoil- and I’m totally not just saying that so we can see a third handsome man.
Finally, The Age of Adaline is beautiful in the most literal sense of the word. Breathtaking shots of Chinatown in San Francisco and Ellis’s family home in Berkeley prove to be as magical as any setting in our favorite Disney movies. The score is lovely and romantic, perfectly complimenting the dreamy cinematography. The soundtrack is ethereal, including songs from another timeless beauty, Lana Del Rey, who recorded “Life is Beautiful,” for the movie’s soundtrack. Between The Great Gatsby, Maleficent, and *two* songs for Big Eyes, Lana is really stepping up to become the Leonardo DiCaprio of musicians overlooked for the Oscars. And the costumes. The costumes. Serena van der Woodsen would be proud.