Love, and almost everything else is tricky for Adaline Bowman (Lively). For nearly eight decades she has been frozen at age 29. Her daughter (Ellen Burstyn) looks like her grandmother while Adaline has been immune to the ravages of time. Over the years she has become closed off, rarely making friends and never dating lest she be found out and experimented on to discover the secret of eternal youth. Every ten years she moves, changes her identity and starts all over again.
Just days before a move from San Francisco to Oregon, her life is thrown off schedule when she meets Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman), a handsome philanthropist who falls in love with her at first sight. Despite her better judgment she becomes involved with him, but as their relationship deepens a revelation threatens to reveal the truth about her strange life.
“Age of Adaline” is a movie that requires a serious leap of faith on the part of the viewer. It’s ripe with Nicholas Sparks style clichés—a woman who never thought she’d love again finds happiness, but at what cost?—and fantastical elements that would even test even Ponce de León’s belief in eternal youth.
Then there is a plot twist of sorts. They’ll be no spoilers here, but suffice to say Adaline has had a complicated love life and the repercussions of decades old romances echo through time affecting her present day relationship. It’s a weird turn that dips into creepy/absurd territory and is an unsatisfying climax to the film.
On the upside Lively is, well, lively, bringing pathos and vulnerability to Adaline. Her mannered speech sounds right for someone who came of age in a different time and she almost manages to pull off most of the film’s groaner dialogue. There’s a laugh in her voice when a random himbo tries to throw her a line, and then embarrassed says, “I guess you’ve heard that before…” “I have,” she giggles, “from a young Bing Crosby… type.” It’s a cheeseball line, but she pulls it off… barely.
“The Age of Adaline” is a silly movie that requires an almost impossible level of suspension of disbelief but somehow the metaphysical melodrama, with its lovely design and strong performances over comes the ridiculous plotlines to become an almost timeless romance.