By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — We’ve had our share of movies in which characters travel through time. But in the romantic fantasy The Age of Adaline, it’s time that does the traveling while the title character stays still, never aging.

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(2 stars out of 4)

(2 stars out of 4)

Blake Lively, in her first starring role, plays Adaline Bowman, a 29-year-old widow and mother at the turn of the 20th century whose car plunges into a river that has frozen over during a freak California snowstorm.

When a bolt of lightning strikes her overturned vehicle, not only does Adaline live through the accident, she never ages another day.

Yep, Adaline is afforded — or is it blessed with? — (or is it saddled with, or is it cursed with?) eternal youth as a twentysomething.

Eight decades later, she finds herself in San Francisco, living a work-focused life with little room for thoughts of romance.

Her primary companion and the only other person who knows what has happened to Adaline is her daughter, played when she is older by Ellen Burstyn, who now finds herself the eightysomething daughter of a twentysomething mother.

Now there’s something you don’t see every day.

Frozen in time and knowing she’s incapable of growing old with anyone she loves, Adaline keeps her distance from just about everybody and keeps changing identities and appearances and locations so no one gets the chance to discover her astounding secret.

Then she meets a wealthy philanthropist, Ellis Jones (played by Michiel Huisman), who pursues her until she responds, after which she agrees to join him when he goes to his parents’ estate to help them celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.

Ellis’s parents, William and Connie, are played engagingly by Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker in the film’s best sequences.

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With one glance, and to her shock, Adaline recognizes William as a man with whom she was very romantically involved many years ago.

William remembers as well.

Uh-oh.

Director Lee Toland Krieger (Celeste and Jess Forever, The Vicious Kind, December Ends) struggles with an admittedly tricky but ultimately unwieldy eternal-youth premise that is so farfetched, he must resort to extensive on-the-nose voiceover narration, sometimes bordering on the condescending, to help us through the complicated exposition.

The plot concocted by screenwriters J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz starts out promisingly enough, but they later paint themselves into a corner.  The result? Much too much dependence on arbitrariness and coincidence in the late going, a failure to connect all the important dots, and an undermining of much of what has gone before.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button can’t help but come to mind at certain junctures while watching The Age of Adaline, which on the surface seems a reversal of the former’s premise.

But the inevitable comparison does Adaline no favors.

Blake Lively, until now best known for her work on TV’s “Gossip Girl,” contributes a graceful performance that’s smartly understated, transcending the material in a way that should do wonders for her big-screen profile.  Her scenes with Ford, who contributes a slyly effective supporting turn, really sparkle, but in a way that makes us wish the film were about them.

So we’ll immortalize 2 stars out of 4 for The Age of Adaline.  There are performances here that will stand the test of time, but script problems keep it from being one for the ages.

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