Review

Blake Lively’s character is ageless but the film is not

  • Published 6.06.15
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THE AGE OF ADALINE (U/A)
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Cast: Blake Lively, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn, Michiel Huisman, Kathy Baker
Running time: 113 minutes

Movie people have been lapping at the fountain of youth since cinema’s creation, both on-screen and off. That’s no surprise given that cinema confers a kind of immortality on performers even if, as parades of tragically frozen faces attest, it can get confusing for the real people on camera.

In The Age of Adaline, Blake Lively plays the title character, a woefully under-conceptualised gimmick who, after a strange car accident — lightning flash, a cold bath, some narrated mumbo-jumbo — stops ageing. Adaline becomes forever 29, but, like a few vampires, knows that immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Because while her clock stopped ticking in 1937, time kept on marching, of course, taking with it various loved ones, including a line of Cavalier dogs. By the time the present rolls around, Adaline has become an emotional shut-in. Her closest companion, outside the latest Cavalier, is her daughter, Flemming, who’s played by Ellen Burstyn.

What comes around goes around — gods, people, intimations of immortality. Adaline, alas, isn’t resurrected with any special talents (not ageing is more burden than gift for her, and certainly not an aptitude); the problem with this movie is that she isn’t resurrected with much of a personality, either.

Best known for the television show Gossip Girl and her red-carpet appearances, Lively delivers a muted, largely opaque performance, an unfortunate choice given that Adaline shows few signs of having lived through two world wars, the space age, the Beatles, the invention of the pill, the civil rights movement, second-wave feminism, punk rock or, really, anything at all.

The filmmakers try to insist that time weighs heavily on Adaline, but there’s little in J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz’s script that suggests that the years have left her with much more than an expansive wardrobe and a knack for both languages and Trivial Pursuit. The director Lee Toland Krieger is good with actors, especially in the expression of a low-key, unforced intimacy. And the movie features some very nice performances, including from Michiel Huisman, who plays Ellis, the equivalent of the modern prince charming (aka a tech millionaire), and a touching Harrison Ford as William, a mystery man who gives the story tears and heft.

Best of all, though, is the underused Burstyn, who makes her every scene pop. Flemming is brought in after a newsreel-style recap of Adaline’s life in one of the movie’s smartest, most effective and meaningful interludes. 

Manohla Dargis
(The New York Times News Service)

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OF HER THREE FILMS, DIL DHADAKNE DO IS NOT ZOYA’S WORST FILM BUT HER THIRD BEST FILM

DIL DHADAKNE DO (U/A)
Director: Zoya Akhtar
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar, Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma, Shefali Shah, Rahul Bose
Running time: 170 minutes

There’s a very thin line between a director’s signature style and a fall-back formula. The former is an organic outburst channelling the inner voice, while the other is a forced insert trying to replicate a past success story. All through its running time, Zoya Akhtar’s third film Dil Dhadakne Do is a yo-yo between the two, fabulous one moment, frustrating the next, and because that running time is close to three long hours, a tad disappointing by the time the end credits roll. 

Take for example the film’s big surprise –– Aamir Khan as the voice of the Mehra dog, Pluto. While the rest of the dialogues of the film are written by Farhan, Pluto’s lines are penned by Javed Akhtar. If you remember, Imraan’s (Farhan) poetry in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara too was written by Senior Akhtar. Now while that worked as a lyrical subtext to the movie, here in Aamir’s all-knowing cadence, the voiceover trying to explain the idiosyncrasies of the human mind from a canine point of view is dull, dry and after a point, plain irritating.

But why would such a fine visual storyteller like Zoya –– working with her constant script collaborator Reema Kagti –– need a dummy’s audio guide? To play to the gallery yes but also to elevate the film from being just another Bollywood family drama about old flames and new flings, past wrongs and present rights. If you give a glance over the plot points, there’s actually very little novel about the premise of Dil Dhadakne Do. 

It’s Zoya’s mounting and treatment and unconventional casting which freshen up the proceedings. If last time it was a road trip across Spain, this time it’s a cruise on the Mediterranean waters to Turkey and Greece. The occasion is the 30th marriage anniversary of Kamal and Neelam Mehra (Anil Kapoor and Shefali Shah), who are happy together for the world but bitter business partners in the bedroom. 

Their immediate business? Using their eligible bachelor son Kabir (Ranveer Singh) to strike a matrimonial alliance and stop their company from going bankrupt. The son will, of course, fall in love... with the nautch girl on the cruise. Farah (Anushka Sharma) is the Laila (Katrina in ZNMD) of the film, a girl who ran away from home to become a dancer and who inspires Kabir to stop trying to be the perfect scion and be what he wants to be. 

His sister Ayesha (Priyanka Chopra) is the more rightful heir to the Mehra empire, given her business acumen, but Papa Kamal would rather have the son rise and the daughter give him a grandchild. Ayesha, though, is on pills because she still hasn’t come to terms with the arranged marriage to Manav (Rahul Bose) and is, in fact, contemplating divorce. Perfect time for the ex, Sunny (Farhan Akhtar) –– and the intermission card –– to pop up.

Despite the niggling feel of familiarity, the first half is breezy and fun as you too board the majestic Sovereign cruise ship and wine and dine, whine and pine with the Mehras. It’s the second half which becomes extremely clunky as the different strands wade towards their obvious conclusions. In obvious scripting errors, the same information is passed on to the same characters more than once and the emotional status between two people is not carried over in subsequent scenes. And despite taking so much time to reach there, the end looks rushed and contrived, and not very satisfying.

The cast makes a lot of the wrongs right. You haven’t seen Anil Kapoor like this and it’s pure joy to see the man play the Mehra patriarch with such passion. A note here and a note there may have gone over the line but it’s he and not the young stars who holds Dil Dhadakne Do together. Watch his eyes do all the talking in the scene when he actually makes a romantic advance towards his wife only to be shooed away. 

Uncharacteristically restrained, Ranveer plays it easy with just the right kind of mischief in his moves. After Lootera, here’s another film where his energy doesn’t get the better of him. Of the other men, Farhan’s more of an extended cameo and he is charming enough, while Rahul is just right as the good son but the bad husband. 

Priyanka is the other big winner of Dil Dhadakne Do. From the propah body language to the measured speech, she is more Mehra than all the Mehras in the film. The scene where she asks for a divorce and breaks down saying “I am sorry, I cannot love you” shows the kind of depth she is able to bring to her lines and characters these days. 

Shefali is good in certain scenes and way too screechy in others. It’s difficult to tell one Anushka Sharma character from another. Whether it’s a Rosie from then or a Farah from now, she is getting way too repetitive in her performances. And it’s not just about her appearance shot being in a waterbody one more time.

The Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy songs have a lot of energy. And boy how well does Zoya shoot them with her cinematographer Carlos Catalan. Whether it’s a grand opera style number (Girls Like To Swing) or two characters jiving in a dance studio (Pehli baar) or the crazy single-shot zillion-character steadicam song (Gallan goodiyaan)... they clearly had a lot of fun; the one reason to make movies in the first place!

Of her three films, Dil Dhadakne Do is not Zoya’s worst film but her third best film. It’s overwritten, less ambitious and a little too predictable. But there’s nobody in the Bollywood moviemaking business who mounts movies and directs actors better than the Akhtar girl. So take in the air of aspiration and get on that cruise with the Mehras. For a few heartbeats more.

Pratim D. Gupta
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