New romantic fantasy "The Age of Adaline" stars Blake Lively as a 29-year-old woman who suffers a freak accident in the 1930s and never ages past that point, cursing her with everlasting beauty but emotional solitude.
According to most movie critics, the Lee Toland Krieger-directed drama is rather like Adaline's own life: gorgeous on the outside but not particularly fulfilling.
In a relatively positive review, The Times' Betsy Sharkey says "Adaline" is "a sweeping romance beautifully wrapped in classy couture and slightly suspect in the way it uses metaphysics to manipulate matters of the heart. Not 'An Affair to Remember,' mind you, but a welcome change from the Nicholas Sparks brand of mush that has overtaken the hearts-and-flowers corner of movieland."
One of the film's greatest assets, Sharkey says, is the look: "Clothes do much to make the movie," thanks to costume designer Angus Strathie. Also receiving kudos are the production design, hair and makeup, and cinematography. Sharkey concludes, "Whether you're smitten by this romantic drama or not … even the tears are lovely to look at."
The Boston Globe's Tom Russo says, "'Adaline' plays like some Nicholas Sparks stab at the fantastical melancholy of 'Benjamin Button.'" (He's not the only critic to make the dual comparison either.) He continues, "The emotion is effective enough in this story of a woman fated to remain unnaturally young, but it's also schmaltzy, tonally labored, and predictable."
On the plus side, Russo says, one of Lively's costars helps lift the movie: "Leave it to Harrison Ford to pull off a rescue that one of his signature heroes might envy. In a deftly crafted supporting role, Ford does as much as Lively herself to shape Adaline's strange predicament into something genuinely resonant."
As for the film's leading lady, the New York Times' Manohla Dargis writes, "Lively has done some fine work elsewhere.… Here, though, she delivers a muted, largely opaque performance, an unfortunate choice given that Adaline shows few signs of having lived through two world wars, the space age, the Beatles, the invention of the pill, the civil rights movement, second-wave feminism, punk rock or, really, anything at all."
Not that she's given much to work with, Dargis says: "The filmmakers try to insist that time weighs heavily on Adaline, but there's little in J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz's script that suggests that the years have left her with much more than an expansive wardrobe and a knack for both languages and Trivial Pursuit."
Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt gives "Adaline" a B grade but says the nature of its protagonist is problematic: "Like Adaline herself, the movie is beautiful but a little bit of a blank. We understand, in several scenes, why her condition is less lucky than her smoothly serene face can show. … It's hard, though, to get a lot from a character whose necessary wariness builds such a wall against the outside world."
In another ambivalent review, New York magazine's Bilge Ebiri says that "there's so much in 'Age of Adaline' that works that you almost want to cut it some slack for the stuff that doesn't." Lively "brings real poise and depth to a tough character," Ford is "better than he's been in ages," and Krieger "does a solid job keeping the tone just playful enough that we don't ask too many questions of the silly premise."
But, Ebiri continues, the movie "has a fundamental weakness: The tepid romance is supposed to structure everything else, so the film feels disjointed — a series of good, sometimes even great scenes in search of an organizing principle. You walk out of the film pleased, but unmoved."