Tag Archives: J.Mills Goodloe

Girl in the Plastic Bubble

Everything, Everything

by Hope Madden

One special girl + a solitary, attentive, very cute boy + contrivance that keeps them apart = every single adolescent drama made in the last decade.

Director Stella Meghie can do that math. For Everything, Everything, she works from the YA novel by Nicola Yoon, adapted for the screen by the adequate emotional manipulator J. Mills Goodloe (Best of Me, The Age of Adaline).

The film updates that Boy in a Plastic Bubble TV movie John Travolta made back in the day, here with a perky adolescent girl named Maddy (Amandla Stenberg) whose rare immune deficiency keeps her locked away inside her sterile home.

Then Dreamboat Olly (Nick Robinson) moves in next door.

Meghie and her cast deserve credit because their film has a sweet if utterly artificial charm to it. The handful of fantasy sequences set inside Maddy’s architecture models are appealing, as is the awkward and innocent chemistry between the leads.

Not one human being on earth has ever been this wholesome and adorable, but as YA lit flicks go, it could be much worse.

Tragedy looms darkly over most young adult romances – like a watered down Nicolas Sparks movie. Maddy’s ailment keeps death always in the periphery, but the film zigs when you think it will zag.

Meghie keeps almost everything restrained, which is both the film’s blessing and curse. Too often in movies of this ilk, the drama becomes so soapy as to be intolerable. Maddy’s coming-of-age choices feel more self-empowering than love struck, and her easygoing, forgiving nature keeps the tone just this side of angsty.

Thank you.

On the other hand, when the narrative takes a bizarre – almost diabolical – turn, that laid back approach feels neutered. Real rage is called for. Police intervention. A good slap, anyway.

But Meghie doesn’t indulge our lust for drama, which would be admirable if her film weren’t so bland.


29 and Holding

The Age of Adaline

by Hope Madden

An impeccably dressed Nicholas Sparks rip off, The Age of Adaline follows a woman trapped forever at the age of 29. Vampire? If only!

No, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) is victim of cosmic forces and bad driving, rendering her ageless – as explained to us by the Twilight Zone-style voiceover.

Voiceover narration is the single laziest storytelling crutch in screenwriting, by the way.

Then the world changes around Adaline, but the classy lady leads a mostly solitary life, always afraid to let someone in on her secret. Or is she just a commitment phobe?

Lively impressed in her turn in Ben Affleck’s The Town (2010), but hasn’t shown a glimmer of that ability since. Here she’s suitably proper, timelessly classy. You might even mistake this for a strong performance until she shares the screen with the great Ellen Burstyn, playing Adaline’s aging daughter Flemming. Performing together, it’s clear one of these people is acting while the other is posing.

Give her credit, Lively poses well and director Lee Toland Krieger knows how to frame her while she does it. His whole film is as pretty as Adaline, and also like her, it’s surprisingly restrained. Though it certainly splashes the same emotional manipulation onscreen you’d expect from a romantic drama of the Sparks ilk, it doesn’t wallow.

The crisis Adaline faces is true love. Of course it is. Can she tell new unabashedly perfect beau Ellis (Michiel Huisman) of her unusual ailment? What about those shadowy, lurking government types who want to test her or take samples or something?

Thank God for Harrison Ford, who jumps in with an admirable attempt to salvage the star crossed lovers’ drama. He struggles with this dialog, and when was the last time you saw a well-rounded male character in a Sparks-esque romance? Still, he does what he can and is a very welcome presence.

The film is co-written by J. Mills Goodloe, co-scriptor of Sparks’s organ transplant love affair The Best of Me. This is better than that, so congratulations Mr. Goodloe.

The film will find an audience. It’s pretty, and capably made for emotionally manipulative romance. But you should see Ex Machina instead.