Dave's Rating:

2.5

Proustian mush

It begins with a shot of the Earth from space, and omniscient narration. (The voice of Hugh Ross, narrator of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, whose low-key, somewhat conspiratorial, post-sincere, NPR reporter tone turns the action on screen into what sounds like an ironic joke.) As the camera runs aground in 2015 San Francisco, Adaline (Blake Lively) arrives, wearing perfectly tailored design classics that are neither in style nor out, and talking about the nature of time and memory with her pet dog. Blink and you'll miss the Proustian touch of a literal plate of madeleines she's eating while doing so.

Adaline, born in 1908, experiences a freak accident at age 29, one that freezes her aging process forever. The impossible Bride of Frankenstein-like, future-science of this event is fully, ludicrously explained by the Narrator. So much for magic. But yeah, she's not going anywhere except into hiding to avoid being, in the film's words, "a curiosity," or worse, the victim of an endless series of government experiments.

From this moment on, Adaline must move and change identities every decade, her secret known only to her aging daughter (Ellen Burstyn). But a chance meeting with rich, young, philanthropist Ellis (Dutch actor Michiel Huisman, from Game of Thrones and Orphan Black, whose American accent occasionally slips in an out of America) could change all that. She's drawn to him for reasons she doesn't understand. Then she meets his father (Harrison Ford) and it's time to break out those madeleines all over again.

If only Age of Adaline were as smart and wise as it is beautiful to look at (David Lanzenberg's cinematography and Claude Pare's production design make for the sort of environment audiences yearn to live inside). If only its script (from J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz), regardless of its literary allusions, were less goofy and easily reduced to mechanics, it might inspire the sort of romantic sorrow director Lee Toland Krieger (Celeste & Jesse Forever) is going for, rather than the occasional audience laughter it actually provokes.

Lively, and her head-spinning array of outfits (Oscar-winner Angus Strathie, the hardest working man in costumes), quietly walks away with the film. Not necessarily regarded as one of her generation's most accomplished actors, she has an appropriately old-fashioned movie star quality all the same, and she knows how to work with a camera. What the film is determined to yank out from under her, she holds on to with a reserved tenacity. Paired with a romantic interest who's not especially interesting, Lively gravitates toward the film's real heart, the relationship she shares with her daughter; the scenes with Burstyn overflow with affection.

Think of it, then, not as the similarly-themed Tilda Swinton drama, Orlando, remade for the Hallmark Channel with intrusive voiceover explaining every single last bit of mystery until you want to scream "I GET IT!" Instead, consider it a sweet, melancholy, love story between a mother and daughter, one with a few distracting men thrown in the mix. It'll feel much more satisfying that way.

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