The Age of Innocence (1993)
In Martin Scorsese's adaptation of Edith Wharton's 1920 novel, romance between an upper-class gentleman and an ostracized lady is doomed by 19th century New York society. Shortly after his engagement to blandly genteel May Welland (Winona Ryder), Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) is reacquainted with May's scandalous cousin Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer). As the head of an esteemed family, Archer initially uses his standing to try to rehabilitate Ellen's reputation, but he finds himself increasingly drawn to her disregard for the codes of New York manners. Bound by ingrained society mores and his peers' insinuations, Newland tries to dodge his growing passion by rushing his marriage to May, but he cannot keep himself from confessing his love to Ellen. Recognizing that Newland could never abandon his sense of honor and be happy, Ellen pushes Newland to May and leaves town. The marriage proceeds as dictated, but when Newland unexpectedly sees Ellen again, he yearns for the affair to come to fruition. However, he underestimates not only what May knows but also her ability to uphold the rules of propriety. Sumptuously shot by Michael Ballhaus, the film offers meticulously designed costumes and settings that evoke a culture as seductively beautiful in its surfaces as it is stifling in its rituals. Unspoken emotions are expressed through such details as yellow roses or a clipped cigar, a fade to red or a single camera move. Using Wharton's original prose to comment on the setting's hypocrisies, Joanne Woodward's voiceover narration suggests how much decisive power is buried beneath dainty femininity. The Age of Innocence received five Oscar nominations, including Best Supporting Actress for Ryder and Best Screenplay for Scorsese and Jay Cocks, and a win for Best Costumes. Although The Age of Innocence seemed like a departure from Scorsese's prior work, Newland is as much at the mercy of his circle's Byzantine structure (and his own conscience) as are Scorsese's more familiar mobsters; Newland's persecutors just wear white tie and tails. … More
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Critic Reviews for The Age of Innocence
I don't know any of those [prior] versions, and I wonder how (which means I doubt that) they avoided the snare that Wharton unwittingly set for her adapters, the snare that, for all his gifts, caught Scorsese.
Manages to be both personal and true to its source, though it never quite comes together.
Spurning Masterpiece Theatre twittiness, Scorsese cuts to the primal passions of Wharton's tale.
Mr. Scorsese has made a big, intelligent movie that functions as if it were a window on a world he had just discovered, and about which he can't wait to spread the news.
Day-Lewis and Pfeifer are on top form with Ryder giving the performance of her career.
Gorgeously shot, deceptively genteel period drama. Day-Lewis, Ryder and in particular Pfieffer give performances as polished as the silver and the result is slow, subtle but irresistibly powerful.
It shows that while conformity can stifle honesty and love, acting in mere self-interest can be even more destructive.
The Age of Innocence drags through some of the usual costume movie elements, but Scorsese's exuberance carries the show.
The movie seems a departure from Scorsese's turf of violence and lower class men, but Wharton's depiction of rigid milieu with its restrictive mores and emotional repression bears resemblance to Little Italy's male subculture.
A stylish but fairly forgettable Scorsese effort
The great tragedy is that the hypocrisies that Newland and Olenska work to reveal are the very same ones that ultimately destroy everything passionate and human within them.
A moving and impassioned work from one of the foremost filmmakers today.
Scorsese must stay away from period pieces.
Scorsese brings to stuffy New York society the same keen regard for the rules of social games that characterize his earlier films.
The story lacks the depth of emotion needed to engage the interests of the audience.
[Age of Innocence] is a veritable feast for the eyes, but the story's about as entertaining as a fourth grade adaptation of a Neil Simon play.
Audience Reviews for The Age of Innocence
A well-acted, if occasionally boring and long-winded study of 19th century New York and how a young upper-class man (Daniel Day-Lewis) slowly begins to detach himself from his wife (Winona Ryder) in hopes of starting a relationship with her cousin (Michelle Pfeiffer). If not for Day-Lewis's convincing, arresting turn as a man deeply troubled by what he should do and what he truly feels, this movie would probably be lost on me. Instead, it is quite good, in addition to Scorsese's firm direction which includes some original camera tricks to spice up the story every once in a while. It goes on a little too long, and sometimes you question if you should even be caring about these snobby upper-class people. However, the characters are given the proper color and depth they need, in addition to the plot being able to keep the story going in the second half, when you do not know what Day-Lewis's character will decide to do. The end result is a fine film, a minor entry into Scorsese's resume, and one of the few chances audiences around the world get to see the brilliance that is the actor Daniel Day-Lewis.More
Of course, this film doesn't allow for the usual Scorsese violence, but coming from him, I expected something a little more...intense. The look of this movie is amazing, with its gorgeous cinematography, it's as if you are watching a 2-hour long painting. But, apart from the aesthetic aspect, it also resembles a painting in the fact that nothing happens. Sadly, The Age of Innocence is terribly boring. I never thought I'd see Daniel Day-Lewis in such a plain role, he did what he could with what he was given. Winona Ryder was good in her own, puppy-like way. The film's best was Michelle Pfeiffer. Her performance was flawed, but she was the one who kept your interest alive. Loved the narrator. Martin Scorsese should stick to what he does best: blood.More
I'm okay with the movie because I liked the book. The direction is a bit odd. It seems like Marty Scorsese toned down his usual flashy cool to fit a staid period piece - the quick cuts to the food, the letters read to the camera.More
I'm normally not into these types of movies, and I'll admit that the main reason I saw this was because it was directed by Scorsese. After watching it, I found myself enjoying it, like sincerely, and not just because of who made it. This is a really interesting and engaging film about a love triangle, the hypocrisy of high society, and the torment that can be caused by the conflict between desire and social restrictions.
This may seem like the oddity of Scorsese's filmography, not least because of the PG rating and the fact that this was his first period piece costume drama, but thematically and stylistically, this film fits in quite nicely with the resty of his work. Among other trademarks are the Madonna-Whore complex (and other elements of Catholicism), psychological turmoil, a constantly moving camera, nicely executed tracking shots and long takes, wonderful cinematography and rapid yet fluid editing, among other things.
I found myself a tad bit bored here and there, but I was mostly into the story, I cared about the dilemma the characters face, and the wonderfully poetic way it all comes together at the end. I thought the art direction and costumes were fabulous, the music great, and the fact that Scorsese took a risk by doing something different quite admirable. Despite no physocal violence in this film, Scorsese once commented that he felt this was his most violent film. That sounds laughable, but I get what he means. The pyschological and emotional violence is quite stinging and devastating here. I wouldn't call it his most violent film, but then again, emotional and psychological pain can be far more dmamging than trauma caused by knives, guns, fists, or blunt instruments.
Give this one a chance. I don't quite think it is the perfect masterpiece that Roger Ebert does, but it is nonetheless a fascinating and brilliant romantic drama.
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