All words: Rachel Kurzius
If you looked like Blake Lively and didn’t age for 80 years, you might think life was pretty god damn good. But you’d be wrong. In Age of Adaline, the protagonist spends her immortal years moping, when she’s not dazzling men with her stunning wit and knack for foreign languages.
A cloying voice-over explains the “science” behind Adaline’s agelessness early in the film. This is a big misstep on the part of screenwriters J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz. Voice-overs are almost always lazy, but Age of Adaline’s know-it-all takes it to new and bizarre heights. There’s no point to understanding exactly how Adaline manages to stay 29 for so long, when a magical realism-esque lack of explanation would do just fine. Juxtaposed with the utter lack of reason behind the love story (other than the obvious, which is that dudes dig Blake Lively), it comes off as even more strange.
In the present day, Adaline meets Ellis (Michiel Huisman) at a fancy party. Because this is a Hollywood romance, Ellis blackmails Adaline into going on a date with him. Don’t worry: it’s cute that way! It must be true love because they take one another to equally quirky date spots and share a love of old books.
Adaline fears falling in love, and attachment more generally, because she knows that other people will age as she stays her fit, 29-year-old self. There’s also a low-simmering threat that her condition makes her susceptible to becoming a lab rat, so she changes names and locations every 10 years. Her only confidante is her daughter (Ellen Burstyn, doing another riff on a similar character she played in Interstellar), so now she looks more like her grandmother. Adaline also has a knack for getting the exact same dog over and over for the better part of a century. This probably represents her nostalgic bent but comes off as creepy.
Adaline lets herself fall for Ellis because, as stated before, they just have such a connection. Or so we keep being told. Their relationship becomes more complicated when she joins him at his parents’ home for a weekend and finds out that about 40 years prior, she was madly in love with his dad (Harrison Ford). Shockingly, the issue at hand isn’t that father and son are eskimo brothers. Instead, Adaline worries that the connection could lead to a revelation about her true identity.
Can Adaline let go long enough to let herself love again? Or will she continue to beguile handsome strangers for another century? These are supposedly the film’s themes, but director Lee Toland Krieger spends far more of his attention on Age of Adaline’s car crashes than he does with the love story. Cinematically, the accidents are impressive and resemble Cast Away’s terrifying plane crash. The focus on the action, rather than the romance, makes it seem like Krieger wishes he was directing a different movie. We would probably all be better off if he got his wish.