I have just seen the whimsical romantic fantasy film Age of Adeline, and was disgusted at the result. While the film was gentle and wonderful in its slow fantasy and romance it had a serious flaw.
This is not the first time I have experienced the same feeling in a specific category of films, this is a flaw in the Hollywood approach to a group of films they cannot handle and subsequently ruin.
There is within Hollywood a convention that you cannot touch god, you cannot touch on majesty, miracles or hope unless it's explained away to make everything "normal again".
Of course you can have magical superpowers, if you've been bitten by a radioactive spider, or you inherited your billions from daddy and have time to spend being a superhero in rubber, spandex or a tin suit, but for the rest of us, we shall be consigned forever to being "normal", the average "Joe public" at the heart of all production and marketing decisions. There is no hope for you.
And if there is hope, it will always be dashed and trashed.
In The Age Of Adeline we see a slow, delicate story of one woman made eternally youthful by a series of circumstances that gifted her above and beyond the norm for the rest of us. Rather than portraying this as the source for hope to the rest of us, hinting perhaps at the opportunity to one-day see everyone experience her gift, we see the conclusion of her journey as she is once again reduced to being "normal" and loosing her gift in exchange for "true love".
And this is what make Hollywood believe we all seek for our comfort. To be "normal", to settle for and accept a "normal" life and lifespan, without hope for any greater life. That shall be reserved to the eternal superheroes who live in a different realm of fantasy.
Eternal Hopes Dashed
This is not the first time that hope and beauty have been dashed on the brutal rocks of Hollywood normality. The first time I experienced this was seeing the conclusion of the film "Phenomenon". Here the lead, John Travolta, is struck by a "magical" beam of light from the skies/heavens and his mind is awakened to brilliance, transforming the lives of his family, friends and community around him as his mind become more and more intelligent and powerful.
That cannot be allowed to succeed so the story is twisted and his "power" is explained in the final sentimental act as a brain tumour slowly eating away at his brain to kill him. Thus tidying up the world for all the "normal" Joe publics out there disturbed at the though at anyone who is not "normal". And a bit like Jesus being killed and ascending to heaven while we poor sheep are left to scuttle around in the dirt.
This biblical reference is not accidental, we see the repetition of the biblical story of Jesus in the Hollywood hero fighting against the Evil Empire many times, the rogue agent/cop is a frequent character repeated so often. But here in this special fantasy genre we reach up higher to touch god, and that's not allowed to succeed - no one can become godlike in Hollywood.
The second time I saw this story arc was in the film "Contact". Jodie Foster plays to plucky young astronomer in a life-long search for a greater truth through science and a search of the heavens, while having a battling dialogue with priests who suggest you can never touch on "greater truths". And then she discovers a way to reach the stars, a message she (not the priests) receives allows here to make a journey to the stars and touch on greater cosmic truths beyond our world.
And again her achievement, hopes and the hope of all mankind are dashed and ruined in what turns out to be a government conspiracy, ruined and alone she's left in the wilderness dreaming of what might-have-been.
Hollywood cannot touch on greater deeper truths, they cannot handle the infinite, the greater majesty of anything more than or beyond the norm. There is no hope for such characters nor in such stories where your hero/heroine must be dragged down to the level of the rest of us or removed in a tragic death that leaves us all comfortable with a safe comfortable small town suburban answer.
And yet we turn up at such shows seeking something more, we attend to watch spandex-wearing men and women in tin suits battle greater enemies and we hope upon hope that one day it may be us fighting the greater fight.