THE AGE OF ADALINE
It was probably taken for granted that the most radical concept ever to involve one of Ellen Burstyn’s screen characters would remain the monstrous, anthropomorphic refrigerator that terrorized her in Darren Aronofsky’s brilliant Requiem for a Dream.
But now here’s The Age of Adaline, which presents us with the casting of the 82-year-old Burstyn as 27-year-old Blake Lively’s daughter. This form of age reversal isn’t exactly new to Burstyn – just last year, she briefly appeared as Matthew McConaughney’s kid in Interstellar – but it’s still startling to hear her refer to Lively as “Mom.” Yet it’s all part of the fabric of this initially enchanting fantasy that ends up overplaying its hand by the end. In that respect, it’s like 2014’s unfairly lambasted Winter’s Tale, a similarly magical fairy tale that too often pressed its luck.
Lively, in her best role – and best performance – since her breakout turn in 2005’s The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, plays Adaline Bowman, who was born near the start of the 20th century but who, through a scientific phenomenon that the film amusingly states won’t be discovered and named until 2035, remains glued to the age of 29 following an unusual car accident.
In essence, she’s like Highlander but with better body odor, staying eternally youthful while those around her age. Because of this, she never stays in one place for more than a decade and never allows herself to become too attached to anyone.
That changes, though, once she meets Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman of, like practically every other big-screen newcomer, Game of Thrones), a wealthy guy who falls completely for our heroine. Adaline initially resists his advances but soon finds herself in a relationship, a decision that culminates with a fateful journey to meet his folks (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker).
A high level of suspension of disbelief – we’re talking Code Red, people – is required to enjoy The Age of Adaline, and the film is charming enough and accomplished enough that we willingly give ourselves over … to a point. From the very premise to a couple of head-smacking coincidences, the movie mightily tests our willingness to go with the flow. To its credit, it succeeds throughout most of its length, but then pushes it with a climactic development that’s egregious in the extreme.
What’s required is a bittersweet resolution and a sense of acceptance and understanding on the part of the characters; what’s delivered is a forced ending that’s more market-driven than organic.
Scripters J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz would argue that they’re looping back to the beginning and tying everything together. But the ending doesn’t feel like a confirmation, just a betrayal.