“The Age of Adaline”: They keep getting older, she stays the same age

Blake Lively Films "Age Of Adaline"

“The Age of Adaline” opens Friday at Point, Eastgate and Star Cinemas. PG-13, 1:53, three stars out of four.

Nicholas Sparks must be kicking himself for not thinking of the idea behind “The Age of Adaline” first. The scribe of “The Notebook” and “The Longest Ride” loves high-concept gimmicky romances that mingle young and old couples together, and “Adaline,” written by J. Mills Goodloe and Salvardor Paskowitz, has a doozy.

And here’s the kicker; “Adaline” is actually pretty good, especially in its second half.

Blake Lively plays Adaline Bowman, a woman born in 1906. At the age of 29, due to a freak mishap (and I do mean “freak”) involving a car accident, a freezing pond and some lightning, she stops aging at 29. She can get hurt or die, but otherwise her body is immune to the aging process. She’s like the dream of the actresses in Amy Schumer’s “Last F—able Day” skit.

But not aging means that she has to watch as everyone else around her does. Adaline becomes adept at moving around, high-tailing it to another town and another identity whenever somebody starts getting suspicious that she looks too good for her age. Her only lasting contact is with her daughter (who grows up to become Ellen Burstyn), but it’s a relationship she can’t publicly acknowledge.

Look, this is silly, and on some level the movie knows it’s silly. (When the storybook-like narration explained the phenomenon would be explained by a scientific theory that wouldn’t be discovered until 2035, I laughed out loud at the sheer audacity of it.) But it’s surprising how much we buy into it, largely because of Lively’s textured performance. She does seem like a woman out of time, friendly but distant, and a little formal. When she talks tenderly and maternally to the 82-year-old Burstyn.

But the movie doesn’t seem to know what to do with its idea for the first half. Adaline plans to leave San Francisco again, only to fall for a kindly philanthropist (Michiel Huisman). Will she tell him the truth, or flee love once again? It all seems melodramatic and inert, with terrible dialogue like “My dad’s head is in the stars — he’s an astronomer!,” despite director Lee Toland Krieger’s (“Celeste and Jesse Forever”) handsome mingling of past and present on the screen.

Harrison Ford The Age of Adaline

About halfway through, I was thinking I might bail on “Adaline” and go get some stuff done. But then Harrison Ford enters the film, as a man with a previous connection to Adaline, and the film just knows what it’s supposed to be, suddenly. Ford’s terrific, lived-in performance, as a man suddenly overwhelmed by emotions he forgot he ever had, elevates and sharpens the film. The writing seems better, the other performances seems better, the film cuts to the heart of things. He saves this movie like it was a stranded hiker.

The presence of Ford’s character provides the emotional foundation it was searching for, and “The Age of Adaline” becomes a genuinely poignant look at lost loves and regret. Your move, Sparks.

 

 

 

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Instant Gratification: “20,000 Days on Earth” and four other movies to watch on Amazon Prime and Netflix

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Pick of the week: “20,00o Days on Earth  (Amazon Prime) — My full review is here. Nick Cave’s baroque fictionalized documentary mixes the mythos and the man to create a film that both celebrates his larger-than-life and provides surprising insight into his creative process.

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“Ender’s Game”: A children’s crusade in outer space

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“Ender’s Game” opens Friday in Madison at Point, Eastgate, Star Cinema and Cinema Cafe. PG-13, 1:54, three stars out of four.

“Children in the flower of youth,
Heart in heart, and hand in hand,
Ignorant of what helps or harms,
Without armor, without arms,
Journeying to the Holy Land!”

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Children’s Crusade”

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“Paranoia”: I have the strangest feeling someone is watching a bad movie

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“Paranoia” opens Friday at Point, Eastgate, and Star Cinema. PG-13, 1:42, one and a half stars out of four.

“Good artists copy,” someone in “Paranoia” quotes Pablo Picasso as saying. “Great artists steal.” By that measure, “Paranoia” must be a great movie.

Robert Luketic’s limp adaptation of the bestselling novel by Joseph Finder cribs shamelessly from every corporate-techno-thriller of the last 20 years, from “The Firm” to “Duplicity.” It’s like one of those cheap knockoff phones you might buy on a streetcorner in Manhattan — the “IPhoen 5” of thrillers.

Liam Hemsworth is deeply miscast as Adam Cassidy, a hotshot tech wizard who just happens to look like an Olympic diver. (Seriously, who knew tech nerds took their shirts off this much?) A low-level striver in the Wyatt Corporation, run by the arrogant Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman), Adam dreams of making it to a corner office. Instead, Wyatt fires him after a lousy pitch meeting, and then threatens to arrest him when Adam uses the company credit card to finance a night on the town for him and his friends.

But Wyatt has another offer. He wants Adam to become a corporate spy at Eikon, another tech company run by his rival and mentor, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford). If Adam can get details on the revolutionary new smartphone that Eikon has in the works, Wyatt will forgive the debt and throw a million dollars in to boot.

So Andrew goes to work for Goddard, who seems much more avuncular and paternal than the devious Wyatt, and the central tension of the film is supposed to be watching Adam decide which billionaire he’ll screw over for the sake of the other. This kind of movie needs zippy, smart pacing and style to get past the plot inconsistencies, but “Paranoia” moves at a leaden march, using ominous music and needless visual trickery (jump cuts and super slo-mo) to try and convince the audience that what they’re watching is cool and suspenseful. Luketic used the same tricks in his last film “21” (which has essentially the same plot, of a handsome young hero trying to outsmart two character actors), it had a more appealing lead actor in Jim Sturgess, and a more interesting environment in Vegas.

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The only time “Paranoia” comes to life is when Ford or Oldman are on screen, but each gets only about 20 minutes of screentime, despite their prominence on the movie poster. Oldman, slipping into his native British accent for the first time in a while, plays Wyatt as a Cockney tough who somehow made it to the penthouse suite. And Ford, his head shaved, seems to revel in playing a guy who might be nastier than the father figure he appears to be.

When those two clash, finally, “Paranoia” is kinda fun. But they’re largely backgrounded in favor of Hemsworth, who is neither convincing as a tech guy nor, more crucially, as an ambitious guy from the sticks who will do anything to get ahead. Instead, he’s a bland hunk who ambles from scene to scene, furrowing his brow or flashing a confident grin when the scene calls for it,, without any sense that there’s anything going on behind that handsome mug. You kind of want Oldman or Ford to crush him like a bug in the first act and get together themselves for a little “Air Force One” reunion (“Get off my skyscraper!”)