In the fantasy romance The Age of Adaline, we are meant to weep for Blake Lively for being gorgeous, worldly, brilliant, eternally young, and therefore eternally tortured. Goddesses on earth, they’re just like us!
Emerging after a prolonged screen hiatus, Lively stars in the vanity vehicle in which, thanks to a freak accident, 29-year-old heiress Adaline Bowman must spend the rest of time stuck in the body of Blake Lively, destined to keep banging and ditching the hot men who fall for her because she can never grow old with them.
Adaline is cursed with the looks of a Gucci model and the disposition of your really fancy grandma. She has an AARP-eligible daughter (Ellen Burstyn), the only person who knows her secret. She lives, alone and lonely, with her dog, her first-edition books, and a walk-in closet filled with vintage designer duds, and keeps spurning the attentions of a dashing young dot-com millionaire (Michiel Huisman) about 80 years her junior.
At the ripe old age of 107, she’s a centenarian cougar with commitment issues breaking hearts across modern-day San Francisco. But don’t cry for Adaline Bowman—or for Lively, who at the age of 27 has somehow fallen somewhere between in-demand actress and lifestyle guru, seemingly content to be both and neither all at once.
The daughter of a showbiz family, Lively hit the A-list track before her 21st birthday with Gossip Girl, shooting into fashionista circles and front-row seats at Paris Fashion Week for personal appearances worth a purported $50K a pop.
Eventually, the California blonde hurtled herself against type as Ben Affleck’s hot mess ex-girlfriend in 2010’s The Town before co-starring in her biggest film ever, 2011’s blockbuster Green Lantern—a bomb that may have tanked hard, but at least landed her a Sexiest Man Alive in Ryan Reynolds.
When Jennifer Lawrence dropped out of Oliver Stone’s weed thriller Savages, Lively nabbed the role of Ophelia, the sexually liberated free spirit in love with two hunky antiheroes and who got to drop memorable voiceover narration lines like, “I have orgasms. He has wargasms.” Unfortunately for everyone involved, critics made a meal, not a hit, out of the 2012 flick. And then Lively quietly stepped away from the screen, retiring to New York with Reynolds, who she married later that year.
She’s spent three quiet years molding herself into a “celebrity homemaker” in the grand tradition of Gwyneth Paltrow, also boasting an irreverently-named baby and the slightly less pretentious but still lavishly affected “artisan” lifestyle website, Preserve, that’s courted its own share of controversy, from a celebration of the Antebellum South that led Gawker to write, “Blake Lively’s fall fashion inspiration is slave-owners”—leading to a letter from Lively and her lawyer threatening to sue the media site—to allegations of plagiarism.
Lively was just 26 when she launched Preserve, the for-profit “part magazine, part e-commerce hub, part philanthropic endeavor” (her words), slinging everything from artisanal cooking salts to designer dresses, blueberry body scrub recipes, bespoke ketchup, and overly earnest hipstercore blog entries on flower beard trends for men—GOOP Lite, curated by Malibu Gwyneth in a harmless enough neo-hippie phase.
And what pearls of wisdom did the budding lifestyle guru and not-yet mom have to share about living the Lively way? “I’m no editor, no artisan, no expert. And certainly no arbiter of what you should buy, wear, or eat,” she wrote in her Letter from the Editor. “I am hungry, though… not just for enchiladas.”
“I’m hungry for experience.”
The Internet salivated at Lively’s earnestness, but then that’s always been part of her personal brand. GOOP-level scrutiny ensued but, alas, to this day hasn't reached the special level of contempt society reserves for Paltrow and her astronomically priced life advice for the 1 percent (many of the items promoted on Lively’s site are reasonably priced).
Adaline marks Lively’s first film in three years, and the closest to a tailor-made marquee vehicle for the sophisticate she’s rebranded herself as. Not unlike the glam Gucci Premiere perfume ad she shot with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn, it’s as serious about its glamour quotient as it is about capturing every perfectly posed angle of its genetically superior subject. The problem is, Lively’s never been much of an old soul.
It was just a few years ago, after all, that she dated Gosling, dated Leo, and brought both of them to Disneyland for adorable dates in the span of eight months that had the tabs cooing. Even the Blake Lively who’s all about Preserve-ing the past and pimping just the right $300 designer floppy hats to soothe your restless artisan soul is, at 27, buoyantly, infinitely girlish in her wide-eyed wonderment. Which is why, perhaps, she’s not always quite convincing onscreen as a 107-year-old struggling, at long last, to let love in and learn to live a little.
The Age of Adaline is, at least, a lushly lensed and sumptuously adorned showcase for Blake Lively, Sophisticated Creature. Perhaps more important, like her recent superhuman accomplishment of achieving eight complete wardrobe changes in a single day—five of them before noon, you single-outfit slackers—The Age of Adaline shrewdly reinforces the Blake Lively Branded Lifestyle of Fabulous Sincerity.
In this way, as Adaline discovers, Lively’s figured out how she can have it all.