In The Age of Adaline, the title character must struggle through decades under the crushing weight of an enormous burden: She hasn’t aged a day since she turned 29 and must continue her life looking exactly like Blake Lively. You might think this is a blessing and stand in line for years to experience the same condition. But for Adaline, it’s a heavy load to bear.
Directed by Lee Toland Krieger (Celeste & Jesse Forever), The Age of Adaline is a modern romantic fairy tale set in San Francisco, marred by bad narration and an unnecessary desire to overexplain random magic. For her first 29 years, Adaline (Lively), born in 1908, lives a normal life: She falls in love, gets married, has a daughter. She becomes a widow too early, but this is not the worst thing to happen to her. The worst thing is the convergence of a snowstorm in Sonoma, a car accident that kills her and a flash of lightning that reanimates her, kind of like if Frankenstein had zapped his monster in wine country. From that moment on, Adaline doesn’t age.
We meet her in 2014, when she’s hiding under an assumed name, because back in the day the government wanted to drag her off for experiments. These days, she’d have her own show on Bravo, but just to be safe, Adaline moves every 10 years and starts over (the movie is actually smart enough to explain how she can afford to do this).
Then on New Year’s Eve she meets Ellis (Michiel Huisman, last seen bedding Daenerys Targaryen and chopping off a guy’s head on Game of Thrones). Ellis is charming and funny and handsome and wealthy, and he refuses to be put off by her repeated rejections. She likes him, even when he serves her hot dogs for dinner. But can she trust him with her secret?
The rest of the film deals with Adaline grappling to answer that question as she spends time with Ellis and meets his parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker). There’s some talk about the coming of a comet that Ellis’ father once predicted that never amounts to anything, and an old love pops up to complicate the situation.
For awhile, the film nestles into a sweet sort of nostalgia, as Ellis and Adaline (named Jenny in this life) visit various cool historical spots around the city. Every now and then, the movie stabs you in the heart, such as when Adaline’s daughter meets her for lunch and she’s far older than her mother, or when Adaline realizes yet another of her beloved dogs is fading before her eyes. How many pets and people have come and gone — and will come and go — when you’re doomed to live forever? That poignancy — one we all endure in our own way — should linger throughout the film, but The Age of Adaline seems more intent on getting to its happy ending than serving up any sort of powerful memento mori.
Cast: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn.
Director: Lee Toland Krieger.
Screenwriters: J. Mills Goodloe, Salvador Paskowitz.
A Lionsgate release. Running time: 110 minutes. A suggestive comment. Playing at: area theaters.