Adaline has been 29 years old for 80 years. Her life must be amazing, right? Not so much, actually. She has built up a truly stunning wardrobe over the decades, allowing her to dress with classy timeless style. She kicks ass at Trivial Pursuit; apparently a good memory for current events goes along with extended lifespan, though you might think at some point her brain would get overfull. (Yes. A movie about a person who must have had some extraordinary adventures spends time on a “she plays a board game” scene. Perhaps the film is saying, “Look, it’s even harder to fill your days when you’re immortal, okay?”) But that’s about it. Apart from her now quite elderly daughter (Ellen Burstyn: Interstellar, W.), born before she stopped aging, her closest relationships have been with a string of cute little spaniels.
The highlight of Adaline’s (Blake Lively: Green Lantern, The Town) long life so far has not been — as far as The Age of Adaline is concerned with sharing with us — about traveling the world or watching history happen in real time or enjoying the wealth really long-term investing brings or even reveling in her wondrous lack of aging. Nope: it was a brief romance back in the 1960s that she cut off because of her tragic immortality. And actually, the limp script by J. Mills Goodloe (Pride) and Salvador Paskowitz doesn’t even bother to let us know what Adaline’s issue was: Did she worry about not growing old while he did? Was it a fear of having to watch him die someday? I mean, sure, we can imagine the potential problems, but we shouldn’t have to write the story on the movie’s behalf. She’s obviously handling these issues with the dogs, and they don’t live anywhere near as long as a human. So what gives? Now she’s just met Ellis (Michiel Huisman: Game of Thrones, Wild), and although we may also presume that she has had other slightly stalkerish suitors — she is very pretty and enigmatic — who she has had to put off for whatever reason she thinks she has to put them off, this time she’s tempted. Why? Who knows.
As pleasant, undemanding romantic dramas goes, The Age of Adaline is pleasant and undemanding, taking great care not to upset you unduly with strong emotion or embarrassing passion. The banter is bland, the romance unspiced. The boldest the film gets is in its string of plot-essential yet completely ridiculous coincidences… though, to be fair, one of them brings in Ellis’s father, played by Harrison Ford (The Expendables 3, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues), who hasn’t been this spectacularly good in years. I liked director Lee Toland Krieger’s previous film, the indie romance Celeste & Jesse Forever, though I’m at a loss to understand how anyone thought that movie meant he could take on this one, which demands a level of magic and mystery and deep time that is missing here.
One of the rules of making a movie is that the story it tells should be about the most important, most exciting, most dramatic thing that has ever happened in the protagonist’s life. Are we really supposed to accept that Adaline, whose life has been like no one else’s, has experienced nothing more significant and no decision more pressing than whether to start a relationship with Ellis? Hollywood always has such a narrow view of women’s lives, but its narrow view of this particular woman’s life and the dearth of imagination her story demonstrates is even more deeply disappointing than usual.