The Age of Adrenaline
A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
I didn’t know what to expect from Age of Adaline, about which I knew nothing outside of the contents of its trailer. It had garnered =decent reviews, which was a promising, but that didn’t inform me about what the film was really about. That’s helpful in a film like this one (or any film on principle, really), where you gleam bits and pieces and a thoroughfare of a central plot line but little else. Needless to say, if you haven’t seen it yet, please stop reading this review immediately and have a lovely romantic surprise awaiting you. As someone who is most critical of the romantic genre, I was expecting to wade through the film on the strength of its cast but not garner much out of it. That is largely true here. There are several annoyances here (all largely plot and character-related) and a resolution towards the end that is more saccharine than it needs to be. Adaline tries to prove itself as being as resilient as its titular heroine, but falls short of doing so. The performances are fantastic, but the large burden of the film is placed on Blake Lively’s shoulders and she more than rises to the occasion. The voiceovers are grating like nails on an eighteenth-century chalkboard, but otherwise the script is largely deftly written.
The story is a simple one, breaking apart slightly only when the film tries a little too hard to explain everything. Adaline Bowman is a woman who, one fateful evening, happened to be driving down a road in Sonoma County. A terrible snowstorm ensued and in the cover of darkness, Adaline got into an accident. Her car plunges into the icy depths before it is struck by lightning. From that moment on, Adaline is stuck at that moment in time, cursed to be twenty-nine-years old for the rest of her existence. At first, the experience is transcendent and fantastic. After all, who wouldn’t want to look like Lively at the age of twenty-nine for the rest of their lives? But as her daughter grows old naturally, the understated horror of remaining young for the rest of her life settles in. She can’t stay anywhere for too long – a few years in and no white hairs, no visible sign of any aging whatsoever? People become easily suspicious and in one horror of a sequence, she’s taken to become a lab rat so she can be studied for further scientific knowledge (there’s no dialogue explaining the true nature of her tests, but it works precisely because the film trusts the audience’s intelligence in that moment). In other moments the film doesn’t trust its audience as much as it honestly ought to, stringing together quickening vignettes without allowing them proper room to breathe.
Age of Adaline is a romantic story, yes, but more than that it is the tale of a woman who has become emotionally exhausted by running away again and again and again from any semblance of joy or stability. The opening sequences showing her jumping from life to life are economical, cut down to precision but retaining all of the emotional heft required for the rest of the story to work. These sequences especially are indicative of one of the film’s key faults, the pacing. We see Adeline zip through time faster than the TARDIS in Doctor Who, the voiceover telling the audience how to feel from moment to moment instead of letting those moments speak for themselves. Yet for her, no semblance of stability can truly be found within this experience. She falls in love, begins to imagine a life, then realizes that she simply cannot have one. So many broken hearts in a single life can leave anyone cynical and shattered so Adaline’s experience doesn’t border on becoming unnecessarily clichéd and saccharine. She meets a man named Ellis and perhaps it’s his sweet, earnest persistence that earns him a greater place in his heart (that book pick-up strategy is phenomenal, by the way). Outside of Ellis’s attractiveness as a potential life-partner, it’s Adaline feeling truly happy in spite of herself. The question remains if she can settle for her happiness or run away again, afraid of hurting another loved one.
Some might be put off by the film’s presentation, but Adaline is mostly adept at making the audience feel for its titular character’s emotional odyssey. Where it is lacking in being adept is making sure the audience actually know who Adaline is. At the end of it all, the audience is far more familiar with her make-up and style than it is with the substance of who she actually is as an individual. You’re not quite sure of her other desires, her weaknesses, her prejudices, her aspirations. If the film had spent more time on developing her as a more complete character, it would have worked wonders. As such, you may feel some sympathy for Adaline but that sympathy never truly evolves into sympathy. That is a weakness of the script however, as the performances are key to this entire endeavor working at all. Lively, best previously known for her performance in the CW television phenomenon Gossip Girl, gives the absolute best performance of her entire career. Her imbuing of Adaline’s emotional odyssey is spot-on, even if the writing isn’t always there to support it. Harrison Ford’s supporting role is an absolute delight to watch as the actor superbly, effortlessly tackles some of the most emotionally complicated material he’s taken on. Michiel Huisman as Ellis matches Lively’s charm and wit with equivalence and the supporting cast rounds out the experience nicely. But for its many faults, The Age of Adaline is a fairly decent rumination of the power of love and life over the draws of immortality, strung together by Lively’s breakthrough performance that ought to make her a star brighter than the ones she and Ellis ruminated beneath.
Title: The Age of Adaline
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Directed by: Lee Toland Krieger
Produced by: Sidney Kimmel, Gary Lucchesi, Brett Ratner, Tom Rosenberg
Written by: J. Mills Goodloe, Salvador Paskowitz
Starring: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Kathy Baker, Amanda Crew, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn
Music by: Rob Simonsen
Cinematography: David Lanzenberg
Edited by: Melissa Kent
Production Company: Lakeshore Entertainment, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, RatPac-Dune Entertainment
Distributed by: Lionsgate, Warner Bros.
Running Time: 110 minutes
Release Dates: April 24, 2015 (United States)
Image Courtesy(s): Final Reel UK, Gigapan