With The Age of Ultron showing on four of twelve screens at the cinema we visited, another “The Age of” film was among eight films trying to attract the handful of moviegoers who had already seen Ultron or couldn’t get in. Just kidding - I’m sure there were at least a dozen of us who have absolutely no interest in seeing The Avengers. (sigh)
Generally panned by the critics, The Age of Adaline is an unusual romance directed by the young Lee Toland Krieger. Blake Lively stars as Adaline Bowman, a woman who has a freak car accident in 1937 that results in her remaining forever 29 years of age. To avoid attracting the unwanted attention of authorities and scientists, Adaline changes her name and moves every ten years. Jumping ahead 78 years, we see she has resigned herself to never leading a normal life. But then she meets the brilliant and charming Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) and all bets are off.
I won’t reveal any more of the plot, except to note that, along the way, we meet Adaline’s daughter (Ellen Burstyn), as a woman old enough to be her grandmother, and we meet Ellis’s parents, William and Kathy (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker). I mention this because I am giving The Age of Adaline a half-star extra just for the remarkable understated performance by Ford. He has always been one of my favourite actors, but I never thought of him as a particularly good actor (that may sound contradictory, but my ‘favourite actors’ include those whom I enjoy watching even if they aren't great actors). Ford’s performance in The Age of Adaline may be the best of his career. Burstyn, of course, is always wonderful and she shines here. And, to my surprise, I was quite impressed with Lively and Huisman and the chemistry between them.
I can also find no fault with the cinematography and score. As for the bizarre story? Well, I enjoy bizarre stories and (again to my surprise) found this one quite compelling. Many of the critics had a problem with the film’s ending, but I think that’s because the film did such a good job of making its unbelievable tale feel real. Personally, I found the ending to be consistent with the rest of the film. Which is not to say that the screenplay (written by a number of people) was a work of art. At times it felt quite weak and unimaginative. But there were other times, especially in scenes involving Ford, that I thought the screenplay was much smarter (and wiser) than average.
I also can’t complain about the film’s rather clear message (only a very minor spoiler) that the fountain of youth is a curse and growing old is a good thing. As someone who has passed the midpoint of his life (quite a few years ago) but always felt a lot younger than he is, I appreciated that sentiment and found it well-argued. So The Age of Adaline gets a surprising ***+. My mug is up and I’m sure I enjoyed this film much more than I would have enjoyed the film playing next door, even if the critics disagree with me.