The Age of Adaline

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Release: Friday, April 24, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: J. Mills Goodloe; Salvador Paskowitz

Directed by: Lee Toland Krieger

I’m a sucker for romance done right. Call me old-fashioned, laugh at my sentimentality, but The Age of Adaline fits the description, bookmarking itself as one of the first true surprises of the year.

At first glance Lee Toland Krieger’s premise promises not much beyond a good-looking actress adorned by a thick coat of hokum. Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively), who survives a most unusual car accident and is rendered unable to age beyond 29 — because, lightning and ice cold water and stuff — discovers that perpetual youth is indeed a curse. Doomed to look beautiful for the rest of her days (woe as her), there actually are practical considerations, and thanks to solid writing and terrific performances, such complications garner our sympathy.

Not only will Adaline be unable to maintain a relationship with anyone as no one is likely to share her gift of presumed immortality, but she fears that her condition will make her a target of scientific experiments. It’s a fear that’s not unfounded as one evening she is forced into a car by FBI agents that she manages to escape from quickly. From here on out she vows to take her life on the road, avoiding commitment to others and even her own identify for longer than a decade. Oh, ageless Adaline, I feel like there ought to be a song dedicated to your predicament.

Or at least your wardrobe.

A valid argument could be made in dismissing all of this as an excuse to dress up the star in a variety of get-ups dating back to the early days of the 20th Century. Seriously, the woman evolves from flapper fashionista to ’50s bombshell, perpetually enticing the camera to her stunning natural beauty revitalized by costume designer Angus Strathie’s exquisite sense of style and time. Vanity would be a legitimate complaint if this were all Krieger et al cared about, but glamour belies their calculated, collective effort.

At the heart of the film is a sublime performance from Lively who effortlessly exudes charm and loneliness. Her ability to transcend time may be due in part to the work done behind the curtains but she is equally responsible for convincing us Adaline is a woman shackled by circumstances rather than liberated by them. When she meets a dapper gentleman named Ellis Jones (Michael Huisman) at a New Year’s party Adaline rejects his many advances with a nonchalance only a woman on her way to gaining 107 years’ worth of life experience can afford. It’s one in a series of moments where Lively’s having fun with the role is palpable.

Heisman introduces a vulnerability to a story that perhaps doesn’t need any more. And despite herself, Adaline can’t help but be drawn to his genuineness. There is of course an air of predictability and sentimentality to the developments but that doesn’t detract from the overriding sense of relief we feel. Added to the supporting cast we are treated to another limited albeit touching Ellen Burstyn performance as Adaline’s daughter; Harrison Ford chimes in with a pivotal role late in the third act, giving The Age of Adaline a needed dose of gravitas. In a period where the film was starting to run out of steam, the unification feels less natural as it does necessary, but even still the moment serves as a testament to how deeply empathetic this cast, these characters are.

At the risk of sensationalizing my experience, The Age of Adaline compares favorably to the likes of David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. In that way, both films absorb through the virtue of their length, more so the latter than the former; disarming in their lead performances (though, again, Brad Pitt perhaps being more the heartbreaker not just because of his looks); both films transporting audiences to times we can now only visit in cinema or for some in their memories. The Age of Adaline won’t be an Oscar contender for much outside its costume design and if it’s lucky a nod to production design, but that’s no small feat for a film hailing from a genre that time and again fails to produce something as rich and rewarding as Krieger’s multiple-period piece.

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3-5Recommendation: Blake Lively turns in her best work to date in the titular role of Adaline Bowman. This is a character and a performer who is difficult not to like, even despite Lively’s past role choices being. . .eh. . .less than stellar. In fact the only thing I can personally recall enjoying her in was 2006’s Accepted. That’s a film far removed from this in terms of enjoyment and maturity. It’s nice to see her rise to the occasion. And as far as romantic dramas go, you can do so much worse than the admittedly schmaltzy and scientifically questionable The Age of Adaline. A very nice surprise.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 112 mins.

Quoted: “Let go.” 

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

TBT: The Exorcist (1973)

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I have had this blog for three years now and still haven’t reviewed this?! This surprises me not just because of the infamy attached to this staple of 1970s American horror, but because it is one of my personal favorite horrors ever. Why haven’t I been yammering on about this already?! I blame blogger’s block. But here we are, on another Thursday in October, once again given the opportunity to redeem ourselves. And by ‘we’ I mean me. And by ‘ourselves’ I refer to my more demonic, possessed side. . . 

Today’s food for thought: The Exorcist. 

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Reinforcing the notion that Regan is a terrible name since: December 26, 1973

[DVD]

It’s a shame William Friedkin’s masterpiece of supernatural scares has only gone on to become one of the most parodied films of all time. A shame because the true power of Pazuzu’s icy grip on the throat of a young girl named Regan has so often been overlooked in favor of making fun of a head that spins and pukes at the same time, and that upside-down crab walk.

A shame because this movie used to terrify people and by rights it still should to this day. It’s also a shame, though, that the special effects used in this memorable production haven’t exactly aged well. Modern audiences perhaps should be forgiven for saying ‘no thanks’ when the exorcism phase of a horror movie seems a dime a dozen these days. Unfortunately by passing up on the opportunity to watch The Exorcist these folks are inadvertently missing out on an exorcism done the right way; the disturbing, nightmare-inducing way.

Disregarding the extraneous and inferior prequels and sequels it has spawned, the story centered around a young actress and her daughter’s quite literal descent into hell when Chris McNeil (Ellen Burstyn) began noticing rather bizarre behavioral changes occurring in her Regan. Growing pains associated with the onset of adolescence these were not. Poor Regan is soon revealed as the next incubator for a malevolent spirit.

Elsewhere, an archeologist/priest named Lankester Merrin (Max Von Sydow) has determined his experiences with fighting off demonic possession in the privacy of the possessed’s home are not days of the past. Following his discovery of a pennant reminiscent of the demon spirit Pazuzu, whom he had defeated years ago, Father Merrin is inevitably ensconced in a bizarre case in the Washington, D.C. area, courtesy of another priest having difficulty finding the faith after losing his elderly mother to an illness. Father Karras (Jason Miller) was the first to be contacted by a desperate mother seeking answers to an unexplainable situation. The case is of course, none other than Regan McNeil. She’s rather. . .sick. It’s been determined she needs an exorcism and needs the help of both priests.

If slow-burning horror is what it takes to get under your skin, then William Friedkin has had a movie waiting for you. The director may be knocked a little for applying a liberal amount of atmosphere creation for the first two-thirds of the film. However, the film is titled what it is for a reason, and on that ground alone it did not, does not and should not disappoint. “That scene” is an absolute staple of horror, its tension and emotional involvement hitting into the dark red part of the needle. I hate to reduce a film to a particular scene, but if there ever was a popular title to be reduced to one, it’s this. The beast’s vile behavior and the sounds it made have been difficult to shake for years.

The blame is on the era of filmmaking for a lack of better sound equipment, for surely some of the sound effects have come across more deranged and disturbing on the virtue that they are muffled, tinny and awkward excretions of noise, more aggravating than alarming. Remastered versions have helped improve these issues slightly but one can imagine this film’s potential made in today’s studios. It’s never enough to detract from the levels of nail-biting anxiety, though.

In some ways, perhaps it’s a good thing so many parodies of these moments exist. The more ADHD-prone viewers could use a little bit more of that 21st Century sense of hyperreality to make history more interesting. At least by watching Regan’s head spin right round, right round to Flo-Rida’s song they might be able to appreciate that whatever is being parodied was at one time so effective it spawned these humorous takes on it. Hey, entertainment is all relative anyway so I’m in favor of more people getting caught up to speed with this film’s iconic imagery and settings in any way they can.

It doesn’t get much better in terms of suspenseful exorcisms than this. In today’s horror, the act of exorcising almost deserves its own sub-genre. But there is something truly special about the way it all comes together under the supervision of William Friedkin; the acting, particularly on the part of a young Linda Blair as Regan is superb, urgent and emotional. It’s also an unusually vulgar performance from such a young performer. The pacing lags at the start but intensifies as the situation spirals out of control and into the world of the supernatural, while a chilling, somber tone is never quite escapable.

It’s a shame more people don’t regard The Exorcist as one of the scariest films of all time, because that’s exactly what I think this chilling, suspenseful and at times downright crude chronicling is, one of the scariest things I have ever tried watching.

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5-0Recommendation: Add this one to your queue if you consider yourself a fan of good horror. The pseudo high-concept horror. The horror that can wake you in the middle of the night in a fit of cold sweats as you’ve just dreamt of the vague outlining of a vengeful Pazuzu-like spirit. And fans of the director have undoubtedly had this one in their collection; they more likely have begun many of theirs with this very title. It’s hard to do with horror movies but this is one I have no problem with calling a must-see.

Rated: R

Running Time: 122 mins.

TBTrivia: In the six months following the film’s release, 14-year-old Linda Blair had to have bodyguards following her around in the wake of multiple death threats thrown her way by zealots claiming her character “glorified Satan.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.2warpstoneptune.com; http://www.puremzine.com