Sometimes, the best endings are predictable. The endings where the expectations of the viewer are met. Where the promises that the writers and filmmakers have built up to will be fulfilled. Where the writers and filmmakers so perfectly set up a theme that will resonate with viewers/ readers and stick with them long after the work is finished. Even if that ending is predicted, as a viewer, I can walk away satisfied as my expectations were met. And, if my expectations are not met, there better be a damn good reason why not.
One of my favorite novels is Burnt Sienna a romantic thriller by David Morrell. In Sienna, about halfway through, I knew what the ending was going to be as it would have perfectly summed up what the theme of the work was. I actually found myself reading faster to see if my prediction would have been correct and it was. I left satisfied, even though I knew what would happen, because the theme of the work was driven home.
This is what ultimately dooms The Age of Adaline. The creators had the perfect theme set up for this kind of a film: Adaline can’t age and therefore, feels that she can’t find love and can’t be loved because it will only end in tragedy. She will go on to live forever while her lover dies. An immortal can’t fall in love with a mortal until, as chance would have it, Adaline does fall in love. She falls in love so deep that her lover will be the only person other than her daughter to know the truth about her life. The perfect ending then came to my mind and I grew more interested in the film, despite some of its flaws.
The most notable flaw, besides the awful ending, was the opening. The hand holding narrator has to explain to us, the unintelligent audience, what exactly is going on. The filmmakers can’t just trust us to “get it”. I mean, they spend way too much time trying to make her condition as scientific as possible. Look, either I’m going to accept that by some miracle she can live forever or I’m not. And, since I made it this far, I’m probably willing to just accept it for what it is, kay? Right off the bat, I feel that the filmmakers do not trust my intelligence as a film goer. Thus, I start to lose faith in them as one should have faith in their audience and not insult their intelligence. But, that’s just the opening, a minor annoyance so long as the rest of the film pays off. And, for the most part, the film gets better and more interesting as it goes.
And, then, the writers employed dues ex machina, and created one of the most contrived endings that I can really remember in a long time. Everything that they built up until the last five minutes was ruined, and ruined in spectacular fashion. So awful was their choice that instead of an above average grade, I am forced to give it a very low one. They tried to get clever and they abandoned and cheated the audience as a way of saying “thought you had it, but we fooled you, hahaha!”
Sometimes, the best endings are the predictable ones. Don’t cheat my expectations unless you have a damn good reason. And creating a contrived, hopelessly contrived, ending isn’t the way to go.