Will it Stand the Test of Time?

Sam Jacobsen, Junior Editor

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I recently watched the romance fantasy film Age of Adaline.  The April 2015 release directed by Lee Toland Krieger and written by J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz follows the rather long life of one Adaline Bowman.  The film starts with a sort of off-beat flashback that introduces the main character Adaline and displays why she is a person of importance.  At the age of 29 Mrs. Bowman is caught by misfortune one night, crashing her car and falling into an icy lake.  The cold water kills her.  Straight up.  Not even half an hour into the movie and Adaline Bowman is dead.  But a chance lightning strike hits the water, reviving her and changing her body chemistry.  This event changes her life — now she no longer ages.  This is the set up for what could be, and what in many ways is, an epic tale.

Over the years the people Adaline loves wither and fade, preserved only by the photographs she so cherishes.  She transcends  time — passing through the different periods of American history.  In the 60s the second Red Scare leads to her being investigated, which leads her to going into hiding, which leads her to San Francisco, which leads her to meeting her new love, Ellis Jones.

That much is simple enough to keep a plot (which could easily have become muddled   like Terminator Salvation (2009) and the beautiful, but flawed, 2012 film Prometheus), but the idea of it all is engaging enough to make the film evoke a sense of longing within viewers that movies like Top Gun (1986) and Transformers 4 (2014) fail to.  We want to know what will come of Adaline, where her new romance will take her, and how she’ll deal with the pressures of being a 108 year old that is still by all means only 29.   We want to know how it will all play out, and very rarely is interest lost.

The movie is by all means a romance.  There are plenty of cheesy off-beat flirting scenes and melodramatic tears.  But along with these there are a plethora of scenes that set Age of Adaline off  from other romances; the love in this film seems at least a tad more real than that in films like Rebel…Without a Cause (1955) or The Fault in Our Stars (2014).  However, the film’s romantic value falls short of such masterpieces as David Cronenberg’s 1986 tragedy The Fly or even the 2008 animated flick WALL-E, and for a movie with such an epic scope, that is a great disappointment.

From a technical standpoint the movie is an underrated wonder.  Longer shots give it a tinge of Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining), while many instances of faster pacing give off an sting of urgency.  In terms of filming location there is probably no place on earth that served this movie better than California.  The lush green forests used in shooting Elli’s parent’s house are unfathomably beautiful and add to the magical feel of the film.  Filming in San Francisco mirrors Adaline’s ancient age in a way.  Coloring is superb, camera angles are well-done, and there are relatively no scenes of nausea-inducing camera motion.

The music is well-orchestrated, and the score’s beauty is everything one could hope for.  Stars like Harrison Ford and Ellen Burstyn perform beautifully, and despite a few sore thumbs like Michiel Huisman (whose work I find  bland and ill chosen for this film), the overall acting was fairly good.

However, these high points come with plenty of lows, the most prevalent one is the movie’s overall small scheme.  The film is an epic romance with an epic story; it needs to be epic!  It has all the components of a good epic film, but it doesn’t take advantage of them.  The movie is a measly 112 minutes long, and in that time it fails to encompass the full power of an epic film.  An epic film by all means has to be a long film, and 112 minutes is not long.  Films such as Metropolis (1927) have the components of epic films, and are long enough to utilize them–Age of Adaline fails to do so.  In the end of the film there is  much left to be desired.  And what is left desired is not more about Adaline and Ellis, but simply more about Adaline.

Adaline has lived for countless decades by the time the movie starts, so how can it be that the only stuff worth making a movie about happens when she’s 108?  Surely something worthwhile happened in the 40s!  And the fact that the film is so simple minded and sticks on her life in modern America takes away from the suspension of disbelief required in such a film.  Perhaps it would have been better if the film had followed a looser continuum akin to those in masterpieces like Memento (2000) and Donnie Darko (2001), which seem to work well for plots based around time.  The fact that the movie is only 112 minutes is an undeniable disappointment, especially when we know that there are countless other parts of Adaline’s life that must have been of some importance.

Despite its short runtime and the plethora of exposition that we want but don’t receive, I legitimately liked Age of Adaline.  It was a film that kept my attention the entire time, and wasn’t dwarfed too badly by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) in terms of quality filmmaking, which I watched the same day (though I would recommend that film long before Age of Adaline).  Age of Adaline is an enjoyable film that doesn’t take up too much time (both a plus and a huge negative); I would recommend giving it a quick watch if you come across it.                

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