Parts of “Age of Adaline “ are magical: the fairytale-type narration, the idea that love is timeless and the beautiful way San Francisco is presented. Each make it feel sweet and alluring.
Other parts aren’t quite as inviting. The main conflict of a woman who can’t age and hides it from the world comes across as a little selfish. And, the central conflict of loved ones aging past her doesn’t become a dramatic element until more than halfway through the film.
Those are problems, but they don’t do the movie in. Blake Lively is so charming, and co-star Harrison Ford is so emotionally commanding, the movie falls on the side of a touching love story and not a creepy science-fiction yarn.
It starts with Adaline (Lively), a recently widowed single mother in the 1920s. In a chain reaction worthy of the Brothers Grimm, Adaline no longer ages. At first, it’s flattering. Then it becomes a curse. Adaline has to continuously change her identity to avoid anyone seeing her as a freak show oddity.
Falling in love is impossible. Adaline can’t stand the idea of not being able to age along with her soul mate. She’s slipped a couple of times and given away her heart. That’s where the major conflict occurs.
Adaline falls for Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman), a charming philanthropist who pursues her with unrelenting tenacity. She finally gives in and after some idealized dates, he convinces Adaline to meet his parents.
Here’s where you will need to forgive the biggest contrived moment of the film. As soon as she meets his father, William Jones (Ford), Adaline realizes she had fallen for him in the 1960s but ran away when he got serious. She must deal with the confusion, pain and creepiness of having given herself to father and son.
It’s Lively who helps “Adaline” avoid the major pitfalls. She does a wonderful job of playing the centenarian in a twenty-something body. Although she looks young — from the way Adaline dresses to her manner of speaking — everything she does suggests an old soul.
Huisman is charming, but it’s Ford who makes this movie. Ford’s been involved with so many action movies, it’s easy to forget his acting talent.
This is a case of Ford giving the movie a tortured soul as he confronts the women he once loved madly, the realities of passing time and the relief that finally comes with knowing why he lost his true love so many decades ago. It’s one of Ford’s best performances.
Director Lee Toland Krieger does a respectable job keeping the movie going at the start. But, the screenplay by J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz is poorly structured with the first half void of any real emotional lynchpins. Then the plot points become cluttered in the second half.
The writers were lucky to have Lively work through the weaker moments. She finds that delicate balance of being a person in need of love who fears it like a plague. Her work coupled with Ford’s makes this a love story for the ages.