Being disappointed in a movie is a fairly common thing for me, but then again, I see a lot of movies. It’s usually not a big deal, because it’s usually the mild sort of “ah, that could’ve been better.” But sometimes a movie comes along that has an idea at its core, a fascinating one, and the movie just fails to deliver on exploring what should’ve been simple. Sci-fi and fantasy movies get a bad rap, but they often get mixed up with the sort of “magical realism” types of movies like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or About Time. Time travel and immortality, fascinating concepts, but it’s real easy to screw up, get lost in the details or your love of the material.
In those dire times, the only hope is that great acting will shine through.
The Age of Adaline is a fantasy movie that has pretensions of magical science fiction. It begins with Adaline (Blake Lively) in the modern era, but she has a mysterious secret. She was born in 1908 and due to an absurdly silly accident in 1929, she stopped aging. The film provides a pseudo-scientific jumble of words to explain it, which is a problem because it seems out of place and more so, because it means the movie is suddenly no longer as magical. So the movie is a bit about Adaline and how she survives, changing identities each decade while her daughter from way back in 1929 (Ellen Burstyn) keeps getting older.
So Adaline, in her current identity as Jennifer, is preparing to leave San Francisco as another decade comes to a close. But then a dark stranger arrives, Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman from Game of Thrones), and he’s interested. What follows are the typical beats of a romantic fantasy drama, coupled with the ever present fear that Adaline may be found out. It all goes a bit off when she visits Ellis’ parents, one of whom she knew long ago. That’s right, it’s Harrison Ford, actually acting mind you, playing William Jones, the father of Ellis, and someone who loved Adaline many decades ago.
The movie has a fascinating idea, but wastes it. tweet
Although I found the romance a bit typical, the two leads were charming enough that I didn’t mind at the time. And when she meets William, the movies delves into pain, loss, etc, all good stuff, really dealing with the aftermath of a fantastic idea, the immortal person that outlives other people. Unfortunately things get sillier and sappier and much more predictable until suddenly the narrator comes back to pseudo-science us again, but this time it’s just annoying. The movie has a fascinating idea, but wastes it. So then, how about them actors?
Blake Lively is actually excellent here. tweet
Blake Lively is actually excellent here, having to play a woman out of time, and interacting in several time periods with different people and period specific dialogue. Michiel Huisman is charming, and his actions border on creepy, but for a romance movie, creepy implies good, right? And really, it was great to see Harrison Ford trying again, something I don’t see much; I guess in Ender’s Game he was acting too, which means I have hopes for his work in the upcoming Star Wars movie. I liked him a lot here, but the movie felt too much like a gun about to go off, and then you realize it was made of soap like in Take the Money and Run. Just falls apart under the pressure.