The Hippo


Jun 6, 2020








The Age of Adaline

The Age of Adaline (PG-13)
Film reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

The Age of Adaline (PG-13)

A young widow stops aging in the late 1930s, at the age of 29, even as her daughter and the world around her change, in The Age of Adaline, a pretty-looking but relatively dull movie about long-lasting youth. 
Born in the 1900s and married in the 1920s, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) is widowed after less than 10 years of marriage and left with young daughter named Flemming. About five years later, she’s in a car accident where, as the narration tells us, the combination of the unusually cold weather (for Sonoma, California) that sends a submerged Adaline into a hypothermia-induced clinical death and a lightning strike a few moments later that starts her heart again also has the effect of stopping her cells’ ability to age. As her daughter ages through her teenage years and beyond, Adaline continues to look the same — a stasis striking enough that even telling people she’s discovered a French face cream no longer explains why, even in the ‘50s, she still looks as she did 20 years earlier. 
After FBI agents attempt to bring her in for questioning and to run some tests, Adaline decides that her predicament is no longer something she can allow a wider public to know about. Thus she leaves behind anybody who might know her as Adaline and changes her identity. She does so every 10 years or so, changing her hair, her name and her residence. She falls in love from time to time but she never tells anybody her predicament, even walking away from one boyfriend she sees waiting for her on a park bench with an engagement ring box in his hands. 
This continues into the 21st century, by which time her only true close companions are her daughter (Ellen Burstyn), now old enough to be considering a retirement home, and a dog who is a distant ancestor of a dog she had years ago. And, on New Year’s Eve, we learn she occasionally hangs out with a woman who is a piano player but who is blind — and therefore doesn’t realize that when she jokes that the two are sitting at the cougars table, the comment doesn’t make sense to the young man who has walked over to ask Adaline to dance. As she’s leaving the party, Adaline — currently calling herself Jenny — meets Ellis (Michiel Huisman). He tries to get a phone number from her but she brushes him off. Later, though, he shows up at the library where she works and eventually gets her to agree to a date. Their relationship quickly deepens, so much so that Adaline, who is poised to move and change her identity yet again, seems to start to have serious second thoughts about her love ‘em-and-leave ‘em life plan. 
Trailers strongly hint at one of the plot points of modern-day Adaline’s life so I don’t feel too bad talking about it here: When she meets Ellis’s father, she’s shocked to find that he’s a man named William (Harrison Ford), the very guy with the wedding ring she left sitting on a park bench decades earlier. She tells him the Adaline he remembers was her mother, but considering she appears to have stayed more or less in the northern California area all this time, is it really that surprising she meets someone she once knew?
That is one of many questions I had about Adaline — a character similar to the one played by Ioan Guffudd on Forever, a fun, lightweight procedural on ABC. (One of the other questions: when you’re 29, how long does it take you to realize you’re not aging? The effects of aging — is that a wrinkle? where did all of these white hairs come from? — are such a surprise that it would seem to take a good long while before you noticed something not happening. The narration makes some mention of this in passing but I found the question kind of fascinating.) Whereas the TV show has dug into some of the problems with being immortal that Guffudd’s Henry has faced over the centuries he’s been alive, The Age of Adaline barely gives any time to the actual mechanics of living for decades without aging —  one of the few scenes that does so has “Jenny” adding the name of her next identity to her bank account and remembering how, decades earlier, she sat in the very same room and decided to buy shares in a new company called Xerox. The movie is very interested in showing the pretty Adaline falling in love with the equally pretty Ellis. And Lively and Huisman are indeed very pretty. But together they are also pretty boring. Lively’s Adaline is lovely to look at but with her stilted “old timey” speaking style and generally flat screen presence, I never found myself terribly invested in her or her new romance. 
Without a central character or couple to really care about, I found myself thinking about the problems and advantages of eternal 29-ness. But since the movie is not interested enough to ponder these questions, all I was really left to do was look at Adaline’s pretty vintage wardrobe. Huh, the fitted lady suit really does come back on a pretty regular basis and wow, the right kind of evening-wear really can be timeless — these were probably not the thoughts the movie wanted me to have while watching lovers grow ever closer, but that was about as deep as this movie went. C+
Rated PG-13 for a suggestive comment. Directed by Lee Toland Krieger with a screenplay by J. Mills Goodloe & Salvador Paskowitz, The Age of Adaline is an hour and 50 minutes long and distributed by Lionsgate.

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