The Age of Adaline is not a good movie— let’s get that out of the way right at the start. The story of a woman for whom the aging process stopped after a freak accident involving a northern California snowfall, a bolt of lightning, and a naturally defibrillated heart, is silly but, in theory, a potentially interesting one. And Blake Lively (who, never having watched Gossip Girl or movies about pants, I realized I had never seen in anything outside of red carpet photos) gives an oddly fascinating performance. She is actually believable as this weighted, complex (again, in theory, if not execution) 100+ year old woman trapped in the body of a gorgeous 20-something-year-old. But ultimately, the movie refuses to let itself be anything other than a saccharine plop of bland clichéd banalities thrown around in alternating tearful and stoic fashions, in hopes that something resembling feelings will eventually emerge.
Somehow, in the middle of all of this cliché nonsense, something kind of beautiful is buried. And that something is Harrison Ford. Actually, to be fair, it’s the weird and stupidly amazing chemistry between Ford and Blake Lively. These two people should not, by all logic, have this crazy spark between them, but they really do. And it makes their story something truly special. (No spoilers here, by the way, if you’ve seen even a trailer for the movie.) After a life of hiding and constantly changing identities from fear of X-Files-style experiments being inflicted upon her, Adaline runs into the old love of her life, 50 years after she disappeared from his life. Watching these two together is fascinating, as each is flooded with half-century-old memories, and she struggles to keep her composure while he tries to figure out if he’s losing his mind. There’s a storm of subtext bottled up in each, playing out a love story, but with a hint of an old Ford-brand thriller mystery undercurrent. There’s a nuance and an off-kilter romance here that comes out of nowhere and is a real joy to watch.
The rest of the movie? Total crap. Complete Nicholas Sparksian bullcrap, glazed-over dribble in which the only emotional moment outside of Ford’s story line has nothing to do with any of the humans of the movie, but instead relies on the old trick of manipulation via an animal in jeopardy. (Alright, fine, there was maybe one other emotional moment, but only because when Ellen Burstyn cries, we all cry. It’s a law.) All feelings in the entire movie are reduced to single platitudes spoken at each other, with not a single real conversation ever taking place. And Adaline’s main love interest is the buttered noodles of rom-com men. Perfectly fine and easy on the eyes, but no way in hell would we believe this is the man she was destined for, the man she would give all her secrets up to— especially when standing next to Harrison Freaking Ford, who not only happens to be Harrison Ford, but also has actual chemistry with Blake Lively, not just scripted chemistry.
But if you ever find the movie on Netflix, or it suddenly shows up on your DVR, watching it wouldn’t be the worst decision you could make in a day. Given that you only start it from about the 45 minute mark, and turn it off when Harrison Ford leaves. Or maybe, actually, a few minutes before, since wrapping up story lines is not this movie’s forte (along with, for the most part, starting or developing them). It really shouldn’t be there, but I swear there’s a surprising half hour short film starring Ford and Lively as the strangest of couples, buried in two hours of what is otherwise a complete waste of time.