It feels strange that I’m going to talk about the well-worn argument of performances vs. material again, because I am about to defend this film for the same reason I criticised one only a post ago. But anyway, such is life.
You see, Blake Lively’s lead role in The Age of Adaline is not written as much more than a generational clothes horse, an excuse to outfit her in all the iconic looks from the past century, and look gorgeous while doing so. But through some miracle, she’s anything but. Alright, Lee Toland Kreiger’s film is inherently silly. It doesn’t even do the most interesting thing (which would be to make the protagonist experience the political and social changes of the last century first hand) with the premise of a woman rendered immortal through some force of nature. Rather, it tells a rather conventional love story with a wholly expected twist, punctuated with some incredibly uncalled for fake scienctific explanation for Adaline’s condition (I’m here for romance, not to have fake molecular biology theories explained to me). Kreiger is an ok director, but the script is a mess, opting for an entire half hour to be told to the audience in a meaningless voiceover, even going for some odd quasi-documentary look at one point, over explaining some points, and not explaining some other points enough. However, through all this, the cast prevails as a reason enough to watch the film. Lively, particularly in her scenes with Ellen Burstyn, goes beyond the lifeless script to find the loneliness and longing and Adaline’s life, turning the film into something much more emotional than it probably deserves. Her later scenes with Michiel Huisman and Harrison Ford, also very effective, also radiate the same emotion and chemistry, making you wonder how this is possible in a film that has everything else (bar the costuming and photography, both of which are beautiful) working against it. The premise recalls Andrew Niccol’s even sillier In Time, a film that was downhill from when, without explanation, Justin Timberlake called Olivia Wilde his mother, but through these performances, Adaline rises above a potentially much more laughable product.
The Age of Adaline is available to own 2 September on Digital, 9 September on DVD and Blu-Ray