Love is complicated for Adaline Bowman, the implausible heroine of Lee Toland Krieger's "The Age of Adaline." On June 16, 1929, a freak accident caused her to stop aging. Sentenced to look 29 forever, Adaline has, over the decades, understandably developed commitment issues. As one character puts it, "She's not capable -- of change."
That line is meant to echo with profound resonance but instead sounds like a nutty in-joke, and it's emblematic of the deadly serious way this movie treats its preposterous premise. It isn't a bittersweet fable like "Big" or a whimsical rom-com like "About Time." It's more in line with "The Time Traveler's Wife" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," two other movies that stretched credulity purely for the sake of maudlin sentiment and wistful visuals.
If it weren't for the radiant beauty and poise of Blake Lively as Adaline, there'd be little to recommend the character. When we meet her, she's living under yet another assumed name in San Francisco and preparing to disappear again before folks notice anything odd. (Her best pal, fittingly, is a blind pianist played by Linda Boyd.) Adaline usually shuns suitors, but a new one, Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman, of HBO's "Game of Thrones"), proves persistent. Against her better judgment, Adaline agrees to a date and soon finds herself falling in love.
Why isn't exactly clear. Huisman's Ellis is the film's weakest link, a wealthy young philanthropist with a roguish beard and a cool loft apartment but precious little personality. Far more compelling is his father, William, played by a very good and surprisingly moving Harrison Ford, who suspects Adaline's secret. It's Ford and Lively together who just about bring this suffocating movie to life. Ellen Burstyn, as Adaline's ironically elderly daughter, also provides a few bright spots.
Most frustrating is the way the script, by J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz, plays havoc with Adaline's century-long backstory. She is fluent in several languages, has a near psychic gift for stock-picking, can't be beaten at Trivial Pursuit and seems to have known Bing Crosby -- none of which is even glancingly explained. It's one more reason why "The Age Of Adaline" gets old fast.