‘Gossip Girl’ shows natural ability in tale of unnatural life

‘Gossip Girl’ shows natural ability in tale of unnatural life

‘The Age of Adaline’

Starring: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman

Directed by: Leo Toland Krieger

Rated: PG-13

 

Eternal life has been explored in movies many times, most recently “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” though perhaps not quite as tenderly as this movie starring “Gossip Girl’s” Blake Lively as Adaline, a woman who can never age.

With dry narration provided by Hugh Ross (who did the same for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”), we learn Adaline, a young widow and mother, was essentially killed in a car crash in 1933. But due to some freak of physics, when a bolt of lightening shocked her back to life as her unconscious body lay submerged in a creek, some occurrence stopped her cells from being able to age.

Hazy flashbacks reveal that Adaline is slow to understand that she is not aging along with the rest of her peer group, and when it becomes obvious, she begins to move periodically and change her name to avoid the inevitable scrutiny. (A prescient investment in Xerox leaves her financially set.) Only her daughter Flemming knows the truth. The juxtaposition between the two characters says it all when they meet for lunch and young Adaline, always 29, shares a heart to heart with her daughter played by 82-year old Ellen Burstyn.

Always wary of relationships, Adaline’s way of life begins to change when she meets Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) a young entrepreneur and philanthropist. He falls for her hard and in an untypical moment, she let’s her guard down enough to enjoy the attention. This changes when he brings her home to meet his parents and she discovers that Ellis’s father (Harrison Ford) was once an old beau of hers. Talk about an awkward moment.

For a romance movie with a different slant, this is surprisingly good. Once set to star Katherine Heigl, it’s true any number of young actresses could play this part, and yet Ms. Lively appears to take to the role in a natural way. Her reserve, along with what remains of Adaline’s past, adds a perpetual air of mystery. True, this is a byproduct of her desire to not encourage entanglements, but she is also a woman with a 1930s sensibility that informs her mannerisms and formal speech pattern.

Aiding this are the costumes by Angus Strathie, who clothes Adaline in what would now be quaintly described as a “vintage” look, but no one understands that the reason she can carry it off so well is the clothes are really her own. This is a woman slightly out of time — a glamorous anachronism with only a succession of King Charles Cavalier spaniels for company.

Directed by Leo Toland Krieger from an original script by J. Miles Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz, this is not a story that would bear up under any kind of scientific analysis. Mr. Ross lets us know the phenomenon that keeps Adaline from aging won’t even be discovered until the year 2035, so don’t get any ideas about standing in the rain.

As it is, if there is one thing we learn, it’s that immortality is not all it’s cracked up to be. Adaline carries an air of perpetual sadness, knowing all she loves — her daughter, her pups, her men — will all depart this life as she remains forever young. That’s a lot of goodbyes.

Kudos to David Lanzenberg for the thoughtful cinematography that seems to fit whatever time period Adaline is in. It adds a patina of nostalgia and gives the actors a golden glow that, just like Adaline, doesn’t fade with time.

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