Monday, April 27, 2015

The Age of Adaline

So I checked this movie out based on its interesting sounding premise. A young woman named Adaline, due to circumstances, loses the ability to age, and thus lives well into her hundreds while still in her twenty-something year old body. The world around her continues to grow older, including her own daughter, who's still around but telling people that she's her grandmother so as to avoid any questioning, but all the while, Adaline continues to adapt with the times, changing her identity and moving around to avoid becoming some sort of scientific test specimen. So yeah, pretty interesting premise, right? It's just too bad that the vast majority of that is relegated to the background, as the main story here is just a typical, shitty romance.

Now, before I get too deep into this impending rant, let me just say that, unlike a lot of other movies that I go into full-blown rant mode against, I actually didn't hate this movie. It has its moments, and ultimately leaves you wondering what could have been had this movie not suffered from so many of the glaring issues that I'll be addressing, as this is one of those movies where, hidden under a pile of poor editing choices and some awful narration, I could definitely see a potentially good movie hiding here somewhere.

But since the movie starts off with it itself, let's first address the awful narration in this thing.

(Spoilers ahead)

At various times, mostly whenever we shift into flashback mode, rather than allow the scenes to play out for us, the movie resorts to having some jackass tell us everything that's happening, as it's happening. And the narrator does so in a way as if he's talking down to the viewer, like he knows their audience is full of idiots, so, in a classic case of "show, don't tell", he's going to hold our hand and guide us through these sections, to make sure that absolutely everybody understands what's going on.

"Somebody shut this guy up already!"

Seriously, every single time this guy's mouth opened, I found myself silently cursing at him. I have never heard such obnoxious narration in a movie before in my entire life. But not only that, but they even go a step further, having him go so far as to explain the "science" behind Adaline's condition, even though the characters in the movie itself don't know or understand the science behind it, nor does the science actually play any factor on the events at hand. So then, what the hell is the point of having all that scientific mumbo jumbo blabbered to us? What, exactly, is this supposed to add to the viewer's experience? Why couldn't they just show us what happened, let the moments speak for themselves, and allow us to come to our own conclusions? This was just so frustrating, and I personally wish the movie would have done away with all of the narration.

The thing about it, though, is that, as I mentioned before, the flashback stuff is honestly the most interesting part of the whole thing. But this entire aspect is just glossed over, and little bits of it are inserted here and there at times when their relevance becomes too little too late. And what I mean by that is that this movie does a hell of a lot of "retroactive foreshadowing".

For an example, somewhere near the end, Harrison Ford's character recognizes a scar on Adaline's hand. Now, this scar means nothing to the viewer at this point, as it has never been shown nor referenced even once before now. But the movie only then decides to jump back into flashback mode, and retroactively provide the context behind this revelation, as we see when Adaline got that scar in the past. The thing is though, had this movie played out more linearly and we had seen that scene play out earlier in the film, then when Ford's character sees the scar in the movie and has that "aha!" moment, the audience can share in that moment along with him. But by only providing context behind that scene after the fact, the moment's ruined, that potential satisfaction robbed of the viewer, and we're instead just left wondering what relevance that stupid scar even has. And this isn't a one off, the movie's full of these kinds of poorly executed editing decisions.

See, I can appreciate a story being told out of order, but if you're going to do it, you have to do it right, and you have to know when to tell each piece of the story in such a way that it not only makes sense, but also gets the most emotional value out of your audience for it, and this movie fails in both of those regards. That's why I keep arguing that this movie shoulda just been played straight, start from the beginning, show this girl coming under this condition of hers and the life she's had to live as a result, all leading to the various twists at the end, now with actual context behind them so that they actually connect with the audience.

But anyways, this brings us to the main story, which starts as our two lovers share a really odd glance at a New Year's Eve party. Based on the glance they share, it would be safe to assume that there's a sense of recognition between the two. And as it goes for the guy, at least, that's eventually revealed to be true. But for Adaline? Not so much.

See, one of the twists is that this guy ends up being revealed as being the son of the Harrison Ford character, who she used to date well earlier in her life, when he was a lot younger. But the thing is, the son doesn't resemble his father in the slightest. Now, that can be easily enough ignored, except that, when this father/son twist is revealed, Adaline is genuinely surprised by this revelation, meaning that she actually didn't recognize the guy all along anyways. So then, what was with that initial glance of recognition on her part? I dunno, perhaps she sorta recognize him but just didn't piece it all together just yet? But considering her Sherlock Holmes level of deduction that she otherwise shows herself capable of (more on that in a bit), it's hard to imagine she wouldn't be able to come to this conclusion sooner.

And that's just the start of it. The more their "relationship" develops, the more we learn that the guy is a total stalker creep, the type who calls her phone off the hook, leaving multiple messages in a single day after they've only been out once or twice, and then proceeds to go to her place of work, get her home address from her employers, and stalk her at home, waiting for her at her doorstep to see why she wasn't calling him back (she just had to put her dog down and didn't have time for his shit, thank you very much). And at first she tells him as such, that he should have been patient, and that what he's doing is extremely inappropriate.

But then, she gets a change of heart and actually goes to his place to profusely apologize for (rightfully) blowing him off after he stalked her home, and to try and make things work with him. Just, what? I'm sorry, but there's no apology necessary for that, and if anything, he's the one who owes her the apology. But anyways, so they get together and have a romantic evening, and now that they've been going out for a little under a week, it's off to meet his parents for a weekend getaway, in which we learn the whole twist involving his dad.

I dunno, I know a lot of movies including romantic plots do this sorta thing, but I just don't buy the whole falling head over heels in love in such a short period of time nonsense that you see constantly. The guy openly admits that he barely even knows anything about her, and yet by the end of the movie, in which he still barely even knows anything about her, he's professing how he can't even imagine living the rest of his life without this woman. This just feels so forced, and considering all the creepy shenanigans that lead to these two even seeing one another, and the also creepy inclination that she's now dating her former lover's son (which, by the way, everyone turns out being perfectly a-okay with), the whole main romantic plot of the movie was just a freaking mess. But hey, who am I to sit here and try and make sense of love, right?

Also, I alluded to this before, but apparently living a really long time is all you need to become the intellectual equivalent of Sherlock Holmes. I can understand her growing wiser than her years would let on, but you're telling me that just living in a younger body for a longer period of time is all you need to become fluent in several languages, become a master of absolutely obscure historical trivia, and grow such an acute attention to detail that you can tell someone their entire life's story upon first meeting before a single word even comes out of their mouth? The movie suggests that living a long life is all that's required to attain such skills, but if that's the case, then why hasn't her daughter attained even a modicum of that? Is it because she's physically aged as well? Yeah, because that makes sense, movie.

But I digress, and at the end of it all, like I mentioned before, I actually didn't entirely hate this movie. It does still have a few emotional moments that actually leave an impact, but just imagine how much stronger said moments would be if we were provided the proper context behind them in the proper order. And like I keep reiterating, the central premise is still a really promising one. So much so that I'm honestly curious how much footage was actually shot for the backstory versus what was actually shown, as I could definitely see a recut of this movie following her whole journey being a pretty compelling watch. But as it is, this movie is a complete and total disaster, with poor writing as far as the central romance is concerned, terrible editing decisions, and the worst narration you will ever hear in a movie.

That said, awful as all of that may be, the one thing this movie has that is so awful that it's actually sort of awesome is the young actor playing a younger version of Harrison Ford's character, who as a result (playing it completely straight, mind you), proceeds to give us his best go at a Harrison Ford impression.

Great, now don't get cocky, kid.

That this hilariously awful SNL quality impression actually exists in a movie in which we're supposed to take it seriously is just a whole different dimension of special all its own. Not quite special enough to where I could actually recommend this movie just to see it, but, well, maybe if someone ever does get around to recutting this thing...

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