In November of 2012, I cleared out my Hollywood apartment after six years in the city and prepared for the next chapter of my life. On that final day, I watched Oliver Stone’s Savages and reflected on the brief career of the film’s star, Blake Lively. While I never watched an episode of CW’s Gossip Girl, I had worked on numerous television promos for the series, and it seemed like only a matter of time until Lively would become the next darling of Tinseltown. She flaunted her sex appeal in Savages and in Ben Affleck’s 2010 film The Town, but it’s one thing to steam up the screen and another to command the attention of an audience. Almost thirty months after my last glimpse of Hollywood and first viewing of Savages, I was pleasantly surprised by Lively’s return to cinema as the titular character of Lee Toland Krieger’s The Age of Adaline.
After surviving a car accident and a subsequent zap from Mother Nature, Adaline Bowman instantly ceases to age and begins a life of deception. Of course, she must reveal the truth to daughter Flemming, especially when they begin to confuse old friends in public settings. As the decades pass and Adaline manages to adopt new identities, she always returns to the Bay Area and finds comfort in memories of the past. By New Year’s Eve of 2014, Flemming (Ellen Burstyn) has grown into a grey-haired elder, while her mother retains the poise and beauty of a golden-age Hollywood star. Naturally, San Fran’s most-eligible bachelor appears and attempts to seduce the timeless MILF.
The appearance of a modern day Prince Charming may baffle some, however it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Adaline would attract an upper class gent. With that being said, screenwriters J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz go completely overboard with Michiel Huisman’s Ellis Jones — the ultimate bachelor, and a man of many talents. He’s the kind of guy that takes international phone calls while listening to cool jazz, finding the perfect wine and cooking the perfect (yet modest) meal. Despite all his skills, Ellis can’t seem to find the ideal woman. His storyline is rather convenient, but it allows for the inevitable sounds of Bob Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate” when Adaline realizes that her beautiful, old legs can run no further from the truth.
One shouldn’t think too hard during The Age of Adaline, because one might be reminded of war, disease and the decades of emotional trauma that Lively’s character has certainly endured. Even so, the effectiveness of Krieger’s film revolves around Adaline’s reawakening and vulnerability. While a film like Richard Linklater’s Boyhood offered endless pop culture references for the audience to chew on, The Age of Adaline would have been a complete disaster if Krieger plugged in Elvis, Vietnam or any overt reminders of time. Instead, he focuses on the character’s love affair with her native San Francisco.
Blake Lively carries The Age of Adaline with the grace of Audrey Hepburn. Curvy and classy, Adaline represents the accessible American woman — a departure from the characters of husky-voiced Scarlett Johansson, fanboy favorite Emma Watson or the infectious Reese Witherspoon. Adaline doesn’t say much about her past because she doesn’t want to, and she probably doesn’t laugh a whole lot because it hurts. Lively manages to convey a likable yet highly-cautious character who drifts until she’s ready for the next adventure.
Harrison Ford delivers a remarkable performance as a former flame, and like his co-star Lively, he channels a variety of emotions with masterful subtlety. Both Adaline Bowman and William Jones (Ford) have someone close to lean on, and director Krieger handles the relationships exceptionally well.
Filled with sappy moments but fueled by Lively’s classical mojo, The Age of Adaline holds back just enough to capitalize on its magical realism.
Q.V. Hough (@qvhough) is a freelance writer and founder of Vague Visages. He lived in Hollywood, California from 2006 to 2012 and has bachelor degrees in Communication-Mass Media and History. He now resides in Fargo, North Dakota.