Blake Lively has given us a promising glimpse into the actress’s future without having to resort to any “Gossip Girl,” “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” references or the latest and most low-brow – “she’s Ryan Reynold’s wife” – to distinguish her acting credentials.
In recent years, aside from gracing magazine covers with her statuesque beauty, Lively has been adding some meat to her acting chops with solid supporting roles in “The Town,” “Hick” and “Savages,” but “The Age of Adaline” gives Lively the next rung in the ladder to secure a breakthrough lead role that will allow her to impress audiences.
In this new romance-fantasy drama delivered to us by promising director Lee Toland Krieger (“Celeste and Jesse Forever”), Lively plays a woman whose peculiar circumstances would make some women green with envy: she doesn’t age a day past 29.
Through an omniscient, sometimes unnecessary narrator, we learn Adaline cannot obtain even one wrinkle or one gray hair, after a freak car accident nearly 80 years before renders her unable to age. Essentially, she’s a 106-year-old with a curse and a blessing.
With beautiful wardrobe transitions to highlight each decade that follows her accident, Adaline decides to keep her predicament a secret after an encounter with suspicious FBI figures during the McCarthy era motivates her to move and acquire aliases every 10 years.
To bide her time, she picks up new languages, sees the world, checks in on her daughter Fleming (later played by the always reliable Ellen Burstyn) and, save for one lapse in judgement, steers clear of any romantic relationships to avoid eventual heartbreak.
In the present time, Fleming (Burstyn) acts as Adaline’s grandmother and a constant shoulder of support (along with a succession of spaniels). She encourages her mother to fully live life and stop hiding since no one is chasing her anymore given that “they’re long dead.”
The two put forth an endearing display of mother and daughter candor and affection, despite the obvious physical appearances that say otherwise. In the handful of moments Burstyn and Lively share, the two display more chemistry than Lively’s romance with the handsomely bearded Ellis (Michiel Huisman, “Game of Thrones”).
Once Ellis comes into play and interrupts Adaline’s plan of coasting along as a quiet librarian in San Francisco, the film barely tip toes away from becoming a substitute Nicholas Sparks romance. After a bit of cat-and-mouse play, Adaline allows herself to succumb to Ellis’s courtship, which leads them to the next step in their relationship: meeting the parents.
Without revealing too much, it is not the first time Ellis’s father (played by a surprisingly impressive Harrison Ford) has met Adaline.
Despite sticking to a yawn-inducing romantic storyline and not allowing much room for Lively to explore further, the leading lady is balletic in her old-fashioned ways and clipped diction. She puts forth a naturalistic, effortless air of being an old soul trapped in a young body.
In essence, the film itself leads the viewer through, at times, long and dull stretches towards its predictably heartwarming finish, but not as well as the refined Lively does. Though it has its monotony, “The Age of Adaline” gives us an absorbing Lively who proves she might have a future in commanding the screen with more ambitious roles.