One of the taglines for this film is, ‘Love is timeless’. Having now watched this film I can also deduce that it also apparently twee, tedious and trite. Whilst I will openly admit that the Romance genre is not one I particularly enjoy watching (I will actively avoid anything based on the works of John Green and Nicholas Sparks) my lack of enjoyment of this film was not based on that. More the fact that it is awkward, cloying and image obsessed. What could have been an interesting idea, in a simillar vein to a Benjamin Button type-tale, became a frustrating cliched mess. Here be spoilers…
The film opens with a voiceover narration. Whilst I know it is a matter of personal opinion with regards the effectiveness of a voiceover narration, I do have a real affinity for them (if you disagree: go watch 500 Days Of Summer, then High Fidelity, and then Annie Hall, then come back and read this). In this case I was initially rather pleased, thinking it will then align itself with the previously mentioned films. It didn’t. With a patronising amount of retrospective, we are informed that Adaline (Blake Lively) is currently acquiring a new identity, which she does so freqently as she is apparently ageless. We are then shown intermittently via flashback how she acquried this miraculous ability, and told in heavy handed manner how this is not a good thing to have.
How Adaline gained her ability to ‘avoid the ravages of time’ was not through the use of anti-aging cream. Rather, on her drive home to her daughter, a recently-widowed Adaline is caught in a snow storm. This is amazing because it never snows where Adaline lives (Shock! Gasp! Not a total steal from Edward Scissorhands at all..) Her car crashes (obviously) and she falls into a lake. Our (gratually annoying) friend Mr Voiceover narrator returns to explain the process of dying – your heart slows as does your breathing apparently! Then she dies. But not for long, as the river gets struck by a bolt of lighting and she is brought back to life. The narrator then delivers some pseudo-science about how, because of the impossiblity of what happened, her cells will not age – she is alive but doesn’t get to age. What girl wouldn’t want that? But wait – that’s not a desirable thing at all. In fact you, young women in the audience,you should be thankful you age because it is going to be sooo hard for Adaline to be eternally beautiful. Just so difficult to live for decades looking like Blake Lively, being as slim as Blake Lively and having as much money as Blake Lively (she invests her saving in Xerox, a then unknown company). Because (amazingly!) she is not just mouth-dropping/men-fall-at-her-feet-like-flies gorgeous she is also clever! Gasp! She speaks multiple languages! She retains random facts about the first American president to be born in a hopsital! Swoon!
But Adaline cannot enjoy being young forever. Why? Because other women get jealous, and call her out for not ageing. Then an unknown goverment agency try to investigate her and she has to run away. Therefore she cannot stay and look after her daughter, as a proper American woman should! And that will unsettle her forever, until a man can stop her being free and fix everything with his love.
In case you didn’t realise from that section, like Adaline I am also well versed in other languages – aka sarcasm. This film has so many stupid and old-fashioned ideas about relationships and women’s beauty that it felt the entire feminist movement had been pushed back at least a couple of years. The idea of beauty being a burden is a difficult idea to portray in a sympathetic manner (google Samantha Brick for how not to discuss this idea…) and it really isn’t here. Also, it places the man as a saviour, which again doesn’t work. Love does not, and cannot, fix everything. As much as you could try, it just doesn’t. And the fact that Adaline is burdned with this not-so-superpower is contradicted by her representation in the film.
Her beauty is what raises her up beyond us mere mortals – men stop and stare at her. They freeze and their mouths drop open when they share a glance with her! The film tries everything to reinforce that ‘THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING’ but fails by continuing the cliched tripe in showing how the male characters respond to her. Her beauty is so great it will haunt them forever! They will never forget her! And then, when she is apparently 107, a new man appears in her life. First he stalks her, then forces her to go on a date with him. Luckily, as he is a handsome man this is fine and not creepy at all. They go on two dates, have sex, then go visit his parents for the weekend. Whilst in bed, at his parent’s home, he admits to her a week into their ‘relatonship’ that he has fallen in love with her. As we are not given enough reason as to why he has fallen in love with her, beyond her looks, the film retains it portrayal of love being interwoven with superficiality. In this manner the remainder of the film is utterly predictable. In fact to make the film more enjoyable to watch you could turn it into some sort of drinking game – how many more cliches can we include in this cloying romantic drama? Bet you can guess how it ends.
So, to conclude, I did not like this film. At all. Go see Mad Max instead.