When I left The Carolina Friday afternoon after watching The Age of Adeline, I thought it was more or less Perfectly Fine — a term meaning it was OK to sit through, mildly enjoyable but ultimately forgettable. I might even have given it a little edge because of how good Ellen Burstyn, Kathy Baker and, especially, Harrison Ford (no tics, no mannerisms, no catchphrases) are in the movie. But the truth is the further I get from The Age of Adaline the less I like it. And, no, my issues with the film have nothing to do with the movie’s utterly preposterous premise. I was willing to go along with that. In fact, one of my biggest problems with the film is that the screenplay insists on trying to make the idea of a 107-year-old woman whose aging process was frozen at the age of 29 plausible via barely thought-out “science” that has yet to be discovered. Hooey and phooey! To make matters worse, this balderdash is delivered through a pushy narration (spoken by someone named Hugh Ross, presumably because he narrated The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) that assumes the viewer is incapable of grasping anything without it being over-explained.
However, the greatest issue I have with the film is that it’s clearly aimed squarely at the tear ducts and — for me at least — it never connected on that level. I felt little more invested in the film’s lovers — Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) and Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) — than I did for the leads in Fifty Shades of Grey (a film this curiously resembles, minus whips and chains). I don’t know who to blame here. There’s nothing exactly wrong with Lively or Huisman. There is a certain Twilight factor here in that we have this person with 107 years of life experience getting all hot and dithery over a generically attractive 30-something dot-com millionaire because … what? He’s persistent (stalkerish even) and looks good with his shirt off? This, I think, is the problem. The characters aren’t very well developed or all that interesting — something that becomes more of a problem when you compare them to the older supporting players.
The essence of the film is this romance. It’s supposed to be about what happens when Adaline lets a little love into her heart for Ellis — too bad that every other aspect of the film is more compelling. Her basic situation is more interesting. The history she’s lived through is certainly of greater note than trysting with Ellis, though little — apart from her fleeing from the prospect of becoming a medical experiment during the McCarthy years — seems to have made much impression on her. Her relationship with her daughter, Flemming (Burstyn), is more touching. And when the film permits itself the luxury of the amazing coincidence of — beware, some will consider this a spoiler — having the father of Ellis turn out to be her old boyfriend from the 1960s, William (Ford), every aspect of the current romance tastes like wax fruit. Worse, Lively has more chemistry in her scenes with Ford, who actually brings out a better performance from her. Their scenes together, however, actually give the film the weight it’s been striving for, but it doesn’t last since we’re soon back to the plot.
The film’s final stretch plunges into cheesy melodrama — with lots of annoying narration — of the purely mechanical kind strictly designed to bring the film to a satisfactory conclusion. Well, it’s satisfactory if you don’t examine it too closely and wonder about those potentially awkward holiday dinners with the in-laws that loom in Adaline’s future. So all in all what do we have? A muddled mixed bag containing some fascinating ideas, a handful of terrific scenes and some good performances. Whether those are enough to compensate for the film’s shortcomings is your call. Rated PG-13 for a suggestive comment.