by Patrick B. McGuigan, editor
Now in DVD release, “The Age of Adaline” is a deeply romantic story with a superb cast of professionals who perform with integrity and seriousness.
Blake Lively – in the prime of her beauty and evolving skill as a performer — is luminous and fully credible as Adaline Bowman, the central character.
The script from Mills Goodloe and Salvador Piskowitz is magical, its point of departure a classic-science-fiction-style incorporation of a major suspension of natural law, what some would deem a miracle.
An accident that, early in the Twentieth Century, stops youthful Adaline’s aging process. The impressive narrative voice-over, not obtrusive, walks viewers through the premise.
Her story unfolds with flash-forwards and flash-backs, detailing her first love, marriage and birth of a daughter named Flemming (portrayed by Izabel Pearce and Cate Richardson), and her place in notable moments in U.S. and California history.
Appearing no older than 29, Adaline becomes over the equivalent of several lifetimes perhaps the best-educated person in history, learning several languages, spending in various places, but always returning to her beloved San Francisco.
Her closest friend is Reagan, an aging blind singer portrayed by Lynda Boyd, who is perplexed by the frequency with which men compliment her friend Jenny (Adaline) of many years on youthful good looks. In the hands of Boyd and Lively, these exchanges are mysterious and authentic.
Only her daughter knows Adaline’s secret. As Flemming (Ellyn Burstyn) enters her retirement years, Adaline frets over the future, and elder care for her beloved progeny. Lively and Burstyn achieve the seemingly impossible – the younger woman tenderly real as mother to the vulnerable older lady.
The story is patient, and, allowing enough time for character development and reflection.
In near-recent times, Adaline encounters a wealthy philanthropist, Ellis (Michiel Huisman). Despite carefully nurtured reserve and avoidance of close relationships due to her situation, she falls in love with the dark-haired stranger first encountered on New Year’s Eve.
She travels with her newly beloved to meet Ellis’ family, first encountering his passionately left-wing sister Kikki (Amanda Crew), then his mother Kathy (Kathy Baker).
At the entryway to the family home, Adaline turns to meet William, patriarch of the family of scientists and savants. As played gloriously by Harrison Ford, William is a man she loved and left, nearly a lifetime ago.
That encounter shuts the door of secrecy and opens a new portal – triggering doubts and affirmations in the minds of William and his wife, Adaline and her lover.
The cast invests the story with such authenticity and believability that they achieve the summit of entertainment with dollops of reflections on mortality and the human condition. The cinematography is awesome. Deft use of computer animated graphics at the start and finish support the narrative.
While not a blockbuster hit, and film did well in domestic and international release this year, and is now available in high-quality DVDs.
If you are not “into” movie production techniques and back stories, skip the next few paragraphs.
The DVD, out for a few weeks now, includes two deleted scenes. One is a few minutes long, a compelling scene in which a curious San Francisco police officer nearly disrupts Adeline’s long-lived anonymity.
A brief feature about the motion picture’s production highlights Director Lee Toland Krieger and several colleagues. That is thoroughly enjoyable for “junkies” who technical matters.
Another treat is a review of fashion and style over the past century. It’s hard to imagine any actress whose visage could better serve this subtext than Lively.
The best of DVD extra chronicles the rise of Anthony Ingruber, the young Australian performer who portrays a youthful William. As a boy, Ingruber was a Harrison Ford fan, and developed an eerily accurate mimic of Ford’s speaking style and signature smile.
When director Krieger sought video applications worldwide to play William, he quickly settled on Ingruber. The selection was spot-on. Ingruber relates that the director told him the movie would be fun and, “you get to make-out with Blake Lively.”
The passage of generations is marked delicately, with New Year’s Eve celebrations in the city of Saint Francis providing context to Adaline’s evolving incarnations. When the brevity of life in this vale of tears resurrects, joy — not sadness – is the result.
A wonderful gift, “The Age of Adaline” combines realistic story-telling approach with the skill and artistry of modern film-makers.
It is highly recommended.