Saturday, May 23, 2015

Age of Adaline (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Age of Adaline

This "Twilight Zone" melodrama directed by Lee Toland Krieger, stars Blake Lively in the title role of Adaline, a young librarian who never ages due to a strange happenstance.

Adaline is a young sparkling girl born in 1908 in San Francisco. She is charming and vivacious much like others. One day, during an idyll in the park, she meets Clarence, (Peter J. Gray) a strapping engineer.

The two marry then Clarence dies in an accident.

During her grief, Adaline takes a night drive and goes over a guardrail, due to poor visibility. The film goes into considerable detail explaining that Adaline's DNA is changed because of freezing water and some electrical charges. No, it doesn't make much sense, but the cinematography has such a fluid escapist quality that the farfetchedness ceases to matter here.

Suffice to say, Adaline is stuck at age 29, yet otherwise unscathed.

The film does well in showing a bit of haunt and danger. Because of her condition, Adaline can trust little. Men in particular seem to threaten her as menacing dark shapes while the deliberate plodding march of time seems to mock her with merriment each New Year's Eve.

The film also has a eerie narrator in Hugh Ross reminiscent of Rod Serling.

It is only in the performance of Blake Lively that the film falters, for we are given little emotional information as to the heroine's character or life. How does Adaline feel? Does she really lament anything? Throughout the film, her face is invariably passive and neutral, seeming merely to pass thru each decade like water in a transparent glass. We know she cares for her dog, but Lively's robotic gestures give even this scene the lightest charge.

That being said, there is a bit of humor in her role. At one point she says, "I met

Bing Crosby....( after a beat) someone who was Bing Crosby-like". Then in another scene when her beau mentions the 1930s, she says. "That was an amazing time...I imagine."

For the most part though, the woman Adaline seems a cypher,  an automaton  brought to sudden animation only when feeling danger and having to flee.

A welcome exception is Harrison Ford as William, an old lover. Ford brings energy and a genuine sense of displacement in what could well have been a stand-in role. In a few scenes, he has an urgency and wildness that recall his outings in "Mosquito Coast" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark".

Ellen Burstyn also makes a solid appearance as Adaline's aging daughter.

"The Age of Adaline" could have been a satisfying matinee fantasy if it retained some of its dark magic in its depiction of gray men in suits applying nocturnal pressure. Instead whatever apprehension it has gives way to a sort of travelogue through the decades, highlighting fashion and the most minimal of relationships.

Through it all, Adaline gazes into a mirror, her face as empty as glass as audible remarks float around her. Displaying vacuousness is fine, but when we are given little else it becomes mere window dressing in the style of Robert Zemeckis.

Write Ian at

No comments: