The Age of Adaline (2015)
Directed by Lee Toland Krieger
“The Age of Adaline” politely laughs in the face of Freytag’s hundred-year-old narrative structure as it avoids providing a tangible climax or character conflict. Or did I just miss something?
When she was 29 years old, in the mid-1930s, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) was electrocuted by a bolt of lightning moments after her heart stopped beating. The result was beyond belief. Adaline stopped aging, living until this day as the same beautiful 29 year old she has been for seventy years. As her daughter (Ellen Burstyn) grew old, Adaline continued to move and change her name out of fear that her secret—a secret that only her daughter knew of—would be discovered. But when she meets Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman), a kind and charismatic philanthropist, she begins to realize that she can’t run from her life forever. And when she meets his father (Harrison Ford), a man she had met several decades ago, she knows she can’t keep her secret much longer.
Gustav Freytag wrote that each narrative plot must focus on its climax, or the point at which the rising action turns into the falling action. The entire plot should hinge on a climax, and “The Age of Adaline” (a very clever title, I’ll opine at this point) fails to give us any. No strong outbursts of emotion, no real conflict, nothing that really makes us believe that the story would end up not working out in everyone’s favor. Even Hollywood’s sappiest love stories have at least one moment where you think the relationship could crumble. Not the case here. The love story is otherwise a beautiful one, but what’s beauty without some hardship?
For her part, Blake Lively alone makes “The Age of Adaline” one to watch at all. Lively possesses the elegance of an Oscar nominee. She reminds me of a young Robin Wright, both in looks and talent. She stages a comeback, finally showing she has a post-“Gossip Girl” career. One worth taking interest in, even. Harrison Ford, warming up for his “Star Wars” return, gives a touching performance we haven’t seen from him in years. Unfortunately, none of this makes up for the film’s lack of struggle or intrigue. “The Age of Adeline” left me wanting more – not a sequel, but rather the rest of the story it withheld from us in the first place.