Here’s a double feature at the movies– you’ll love beginning with THE AGE OF ADALINE.
The film stars the beautiful Blake Lively as a woman named Adeline Bowman who was born at the beginning of the 20th century and hasn’t aged a day since she was 29! Her secret? A car accident during a surprise snowstorm followed by a near drowning and a bolt of lightning. The “scientific explanation” for how and why Adaline has stopped aging is pretty hilarious and involves her core temperature, her DNA, and an odd voice over. But these excellent performances and the simple unfolding of the tale allow us to suspend disbelief and revel in the romance.
As Adaline, Lively absolutely embodies the grace, style, and perfect diction of a woman who came from a more elegant time. She handles herself with extraordinary subtlety, and we believe in the wisdom of her years, though she now looks like the daughter to her own daughter– played by the great Ellen Burstyn. Adaline meets a young man named Ellis, the handsome Michael Huisman from “Game of Thrones.” Though she initially shuns his affections and those of all others because of her curious circumstances, she finds herself drawn out of her solitary life and toward a commitment.
Then she is introduced to Ellis’s father William played by Harrison Ford with whom she once had a serious affair when HE was a young man. When William suddenly sees her now all these years later, unchanged, the movie opens up and rolls us back in time to their heady romance. (The actor who plays the young William–Anthony Ingruber–is more like Harrison Ford than the real Harrison Ford!) William can’t believe his eyes or explain it to himself or his patient wife, played with great tenderness by Kathy Baker.
All of these performances by some of the screen’s finest actors, invest the story with a weight and reality we can embrace; the film is shadowed by a kind of wistfulness and restraint that draws us into what might have seemed melodramatic or sentimental. We easily surrender and there’s a welcome irony for the rest of us mortals trapped in the relentless surge of time: never has aging seemed so appealing.
Then feast your eyes on a brand new documentary about the height of haute couture: DIOR AND I.
Watching this film is like eating cake and ice cream for 90 minutes and still wanting more. The point of departure is the iconic French fashion house that rocked the world in 1947 when Christian Dior’s postwar “new look,” vanquished the square-shouldered style of the previous era and replaced it with an ultra-feminine look: soft shoulders, wasp waist, and voluminous skirt– the silhouette that revolutionized the fashion world and put Dior on the cover of Time Magazine.
Flash forward. In 2012 there’s a changing of the guard as the latest head Creative Director takes the reins– Raf Simons. Writer/director Frederic Tcheng takes us onto hallowed ground behind the scenes, and observes Raf and the entire Dior atelier from day one as they navigate the pressure of turning Raf’s vision into an entire couture collection in 8 weeks while the world watches. Haute couture, for the uninitiated, involves handcrafting exclusive, custom-fitted clothing from scratch in a workshop of highly skilled designers, seamstresses, and fabric magicians whose hearts and souls are in their hands; they can coax a pleat from a wisp of tulle, a seam so invisible you’d think you imagined it, and create a gown that looks like it bloomed in your rose garden.
Raf must ease his way through the subtle politics and personalities of this passionate Dior team some of whom have been there more than 40 years. Behind the scenes, there are ghosts hovering in the shadows of all-night sewing sessions and fittings, fabric that must be woven from scratch out of the rarest of materials, models so thin we can’t believe there’s room for their organs to fit inside their torsos, and always a merciless deadline. Out front, there’s Anna Wintour high priestess of Vogue who will pass judgment, and among the flash of paparazzi, a gaggle of stars–Jennifer Lawrence, Marion Cotillard, Sharon Stone– who will watch and wear.
I won’t tell you how it all turns out– but the denouement is a thing of extraordinary beauty involving millions of flowers, the high drama of mounting an otherworldly spectacle, and the emotion of creating works of art out of thin air. I have never seen such beautiful clothing, confections that made me weep. See this– then resist the impulse to be naked rather than wear anything in your closet ever again.
DIOR AND I opens in Boston exclusively at Landmark’s Kendall Square Cinema on Friday, May 1.