Thursday, April 30, 2015

"Eternally 29" - "Age of Adaline" Review

Many women wish that they could remain young forever. In fact, it is why the cosmetic industry continues to rank in millions, based on its promises of having "fountain of youth" like abilities. But deep down, we know it is all a fantasy, one that could never occur unless some magical spell fell into our laps. In the new film, The Age of Adaline, we are asked to believe in such wizardry, and enjoy a whimsical ride down a Vogue approved road.

The story explores the character of Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively), who at age 29, is afflicted with a strange condition in which her body refuses to age forward. Thus, Adaline lives through eight decades in what seems to be a very youthful appearance, but carrying underneath what is truly an old soul. This suffering of sorts affects Adaline in a multitude of ways, including her relationship with her daughter, her long spanning love life, and even some run-ins with the law, making her already unusual life anything but ordinary.

With the protagonist being mentioned in the title, and with such a strong character driven plot, this is the kind of role that demands a really talented individual to lead the charge. Was Blake Lively the correct choice for such a part? If asked during her Gossip Girl run, many would probably say no, but with many more roles behind her, Ms. Lively has truly turned into a fantastic actress. She perfectly captures the elegance and maturity needed for the role, and convey's the decades long experiences that Adaline has gone through with just a single look. Unfortunately, the script doesn't allow for Blake to truly explore the complexities of her character, only leaving us to imagine what really could have been a memorable individual in the history of cinema.

Her other co-stars, including iconic talents like Harrison Ford and Ellen Burstyn, suffer from a similar sort of issue. Ford, playing an important figure in Adaline's complicated journey, has one of the most heartbreaking and interesting moments in the film, but because his part is more of an extended cameo at best, it never is given the true treatment it deserves. The same can be said of Burstyn, who plays the older version of Adaline's daughter. She, out of any character (excluding our leading lady), should have the most interesting tale to tell. Sadly, her journey is also side lined and left to short snippets of exposition and a few one sided phone conversations. If there was a choice to see more of Burstyn's character versus the romance that the film features, I'd easily go for the first option.

Speaking of which, lets discuss the big selling point of this movie. Yes, there is indeed a lot of romantic elements here, which definitely takes up a majority of the story. In fact, there are more than a few different gentlemen that represent that aspect of Adaline's life, with Game of Thrones Michiel Huisman (who is far from a traditional leading man) being the main focus.

Blake and Michiel have a great chemistry from the start. Their banter is electric, and believable, even with the very fantasy oriented premise. But is he the most interesting fling in Adaline's history? Far from it, which begs the question why the script itself doesn't seem to realize that. Yes, he may be financially successful, have a cool apartment, be intelligent, and make good food, but that doesn't necessarily mean he should be, by default, "the love of your life." Though, in all honestly, this is a story crafted for a generation raised on stylized CW dramas and Taylor Swift songs, so it should be no surprise that this guy is ranked higher than Adaline's other, more captivating, lovers.

Pushing the questionable details of the script to the side, Age of Adaline is, without a doubt, one of the most beautifully shot films this year, if not this decade. Cinematographer David Lanzenberg captures every decade of Adaline's lifespan with true detailed brilliance. From her flashbacks, to her 2015 San Francisco persona, no moment is any less stunning than the previous. The same can be said of set decorator Shannon Gottlieb's work, along with costume designer Angus Strathie's contributions to the film. Both have a firm understanding of Adaline's world, and how her apartment and clothing expresses her unique take on modern day living. Her style, particularly in the present, reflects a modest and refined taste, one that could be confused as a "hipster/rockabilly" style by the naked eye, but when closely, examined is exactly how an older individual would coordinate with today's latest pieces.

Though it may not feature the best of screenplays, Age of Adaline is a delightful and admirable effort to create a modern day fairy tale. It may not sit exactly on the same shelf of excellence as other films on the immortality/age fantasy subject, but it definitely fills a gap like 1948's Portrait of Jennie and 1980's Somewhere in Time did for its respective audiences. It is a fluffy, romantic escape at the movies, that features a really interesting concept, that sadly is not given the true examination that it cinematically should get. But for what it is, it is a film that absolutely deserves a fan base and praise from the public in general, and I hope it continues a trend in the romance genre that ditches those formula's popularized by Nicolas Sparks, and goes for something a bit more original and pretty. Cause those are two aspects that should never, ever, be neglected, no matter what age you are.

Rating - 7 out of 10




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