Star Wars Original Trilogy viewing is obvious prep work for The Force Awakens, but less obvious – and yet possibly more vital – is renting The Age Of Adaline, a star-crossed romance from earlier this year.
One of the most anticipated aspects of The Force Awakens is not only seeing Han Solo in action again but, by extension, seeing if Harrison Ford’s still got it at age 73 – because other than a brief return to Indy’s fedora and bullwhip, Ford’s career has been a shadow of its former self for the better part of this millennium.
That is, until, this past spring, when Ford came out of nowhere to give a performance that still stands as one of the best of the year (and arguably the most under-appreciated).
The Age Of Adaline, an April release now available for rent through Amazon streaming and iTunes, stars Blake Lively as a young woman who – by virtue of a metaphysical act of nature – never ages for the bulk of the 20th Century.
The first hour matched my skeptical expectations: a very classy but very contrived fantasy romance. Sort of a quintessential “chick flick” with high-brow production values. Indeed, it was only that high level of craftsmanship (and the presence of Ellen Burstyn, in a small role) that kept me from rolling my eyes more than I otherwise might have. It’s far from the worst thing you’ll ever see, but unless you’re inclined to its soapy sensibility then it’s likely to try your patience, and quickly.
But enduring that first hour is worth it because, when Ford appears in the second, The Age Of Adaline becomes an emotionally engrossing rumination on age and regret, simply by virtue of how great Ford’s performance is.
I can’t remember the last time my feeling about or engagement with a movie changed so dramatically, especially that late into the story. As odd as it is to say, Ford’s performance feels like a revelation. I honestly didn’t think he had it in him anymore. Yet even without trying to upstage his co-stars, Ford steals the movie and makes it his own by the sheer force of his authenticity. (Burstyn could’ve stolen it along with him had she been given more than she was.)
Not only is it riveting to see the degree of Ford’s depth, vulnerability, and nuance here, but I found myself instantly captivated by the film itself, one that, until that point, hadn’t earned its contrivance. But it finally did – when Ford hit the screen.
And not only that, but Blake Lively (glamorous though she is) had been giving a performance so artificial that every posture and line-delivery felt like a pose…until her character was contrasted against Ford’s, and then suddenly the whole nature and quality of her performance was elevated considerably. In essence, Ford takes a film that is little more than an elegant trifle and, single-handedly, brings out the full thematic potential at the story’s core.
Bottom line: the film is a mixed bag at best, but Ford’s turn is one of the unexpected highlights of 2015. It left me thinking, “Now where has that actor been? Where has that career been?!” If you’ve ever been a fan of Ford as an actor – and I don’t mean just as Han Solo or Indiana Jones, but in films like Witness, The Mosquito Coast, and The Fugitive – then The Age Of Adeline is a must-see. It’s not only one of the best screen performances of the year; it’s easily Ford’s best in over twenty.