“The Age of Adaline”: Boring Dorian Gray

Courtesy of Lionsgate Films
Courtesy of Lionsgate Films

I have a question for all of you. Would you be comfortable being in a committed relationship with someone who had previously been in a sexual relationship with one of your parents? Just speak your answer directly into the newspaper. Don’t worry, I’ll hear your answer.

While this may seem like an odd question, I didn’t come up with it myself. Main characters Ellis (Michiel Huisman) and Adaline (Blake Lively) face this very choice in “The Age of Adaline,” a science-fiction romance film. The film concerns title character Adaline, who becomes immortal after crashing into a pond and being struck by lightning. However, rather than embracing her newfound invincibility by taking massive amounts of drugs and becoming rich as a bare-knuckle bear fighter, she spends the majority of her time being really depressed and moving from place to place to avoid suspicion. Well, the film states this, but the entirety of the film is shot in San Francisco, so either the producers are lazy or Adaline’s run-in with the thunderstorm caused excessive brain damage that changed her perception of what “moving around” actually means.

You know how films can sometimes convey exposition in a clever way, with a montage, opening scene, or some witty banter between characters? Instead of doing any of those things, “Adaline” takes the cinematic shortcut of having near-constant narration. From the opening scene to the last second of the movie, practically every 10 minutes the narrator starts up again, usually to explain the scene we just saw. The filmmakers must think that the audience is incredibly stupid, because rather than say, showing Adaline crash her car, the movie will show Adaline crash her car and then state “Adaline crashed her car. She crashed it. Her car is now crashed.” Maybe this is a necessity for the type of people who like romantic dramas, but I found that it kept breaking what immersion I had in the film.

Now, I mentioned immersion earlier, and despite the fact that it does nothing new and really falls apart at the end, “The Age of Adaline” is one of the best films I’ve seen this year. While this certainly doesn’t say much, I found it was actually quite refreshing. After seeing “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” last week I feel as if “Adaline” is a nice, saucy rebound after a nasty break-up. The filmmakers are at least competent, and despite the fact that I accurately guessed the ending around 10 minutes in, the film had a coherent narrative and most of the supporting cast, including William Jones (Harrison Ford) and Ellen Burstyn (Flemming) played believable characters. However, the film must take place in some alternative reality where humor is punished by death, because there isn’t a single bit of comic relief in the entire runtime. Still, I’ve been mistreated by terrible comedies in the last few weeks, and seeing a movie that chooses to avoid terrible comedy in favor of stony seriousness is definitely preferred.

Now, no movie is without its flaws, and “The Age of Adaline” is certainly no exception. One of these is actually Adaline, the main character. She’s beautiful, rich, cultured, intelligent and self-assured, and people go out of their way to declare their undying love for her after a little bit of time together. On a whim, I decided to run her character traits through a “Mary Sue Test” online (a Mary Sue is any character who serves as a perfect idealization of whatever the writer wants them to be) and it came up positive. I was left wondering why all these people were fawning over a woman who had all the personality of a piece of paper with a frowny face drawn on it.

Where “Adaline” finally went from being a half-decent romantic drama to a sub-mediocre romantic drama was the ending. I sat through the hour of exposition. I watched as Ellis aggressively stalked Adaline, and even though I wondered why she didn’t mace him or call the cops, I just figured she likes assertive men. However, after Adaline decides after a series of three rousing speeches by Jones, her daughter and Ellis, she decides she’s going to let herself fall in love, immortality be damned. How coincidental that a mere few moments after she decides this, her immortality is removed and she and Ellis get to grow old together. I usually try to avoid making suggestions on how to “fix” movies, but I think Adaline’s decision to continue to love Ellis in spite of her problem would have made her a stronger character. She has no motivation to change after her mortality is restored, essentially making her decision and the entirety of the film up to that scene pointless. I mean, Ellis forgave you for having sex with his dad, Adaline; the least you could do is not rely on deus ex machina to solve your problems.

Regardless of everything negative I’ve said up to this point, the odds are you’ll like “The Age of Adaline” if you’re the type of person who wants to go and see “The Age of Adaline.” There is a certain demographic who really likes the alternate universe all romantic dramas take place in, and I’m certainly not in that demographic. I prefer my characters to have a little more depth and emotion, besides being a one-inch deep pool of melancholy.

Rating: 2.5 stars

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