The Age of Innocence

1993

The Age of Innocence (1993)

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Movie Info

Though overswamped with authentic period decor (and dishware) in too many scenes, Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence is an adroit, easy-to-follow adaptation of Edith Wharton's 1920 novel. Set in the upper circles of New York society in the 1870s, the film stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Newland Archer, a proper gentleman who falls in love with demure but fascinating socialite Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer). Newland would like to marry her, but he is prevented from doing so: she is in the process of getting a divorce, and as such is socially unacceptable. He takes the somewhat dull May Welland (Winona Ryder) as his consolation bride, all the while hoping for a reunion with Ellen. The affair-by all indications a very chaste one-takes place, but Ellen eventually sends him back to May, who turns out not to be as naïve or easily led as she seems. Scorcese's meticulous production values are complemented by the velvety offscreen narration of Joanne Woodward, whose spirited "presence" helps this very long film move apace. The film won a "best costume design" Academy Award, while screenwriters Scorsese and Jay Cocks and actress Wynona Rider received nominations. See if you can spot Scorsese and his parents in cameo roles-and also watch for that anachronistic pack of breath mints in Michelle Pfeiffer's purse! An earlier, long-unseen version of The Age of Innocence, filmed in 1934 and starring Irene Dunne and John Boles, was restored for TV showings in 1996.

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Cast

Daniel Day-Lewis
as Newland Archer
Michelle Pfeiffer
as Ellen Olenska
Winona Ryder
as May Welland
Richard E. Grant
as Larry Lefferts
Alec McCowen
as Sillerton Jackson
Geraldine Chaplin
as Mrs. Welland
Mary Beth Hurt
as Regina Beaufort
Stuart Wilson
as Julius Beaufort
Miriam Margolyes
as Mrs. Mingott
Sian Phillips
as Mrs. Archer
Alexis Smith
as Mrs. Van der Luyden
Michael Gough
as Mr. Van der Luyden
Carolyn Farina
as Janey Archer
Tracey Ellis
as Gertrude Lefferts
Norman Lloyd
as Mr. Letterblair
Linda Faye Farkas
as Female Opera Singer
Michael Rees Davis
as Male Opera Singer
Terry L. Cook
as Male Opera Singer
Jon Garrison
as Male Opera Singer
Howard Erskine
as Beaufort Guest
John McLoughlin
as Party Guest
Kevin Sanders
as The Duke
Zoé
as Dog
W.B. Brydon
as Mr. Urban Dagonet
Cristina Pronzati
as Countess Olenska's Maid
Cindy Katz
as Stage Actress
June Squibb
as Mingott Maid
Mac Orange
as Archer Maid
Thomas Gibson
as Stage Actor
Thomas Barbour
as Archer Guest
Patricia Dunnock
as Mary Archer
Martin Scorsese
as Photographer
Joanne Woodward
as Narrator, the narrator
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News & Interviews for The Age of Innocence

Critic Reviews for The Age of Innocence

All Critics (52) | Top Critics (13)

A consistent spellbinder, laying bare its inhabitants' follies and furies with a tender touch and a vigilant quietude that accumulates into a grand force.

Aug 7, 2018 | Full Review…

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.

Jun 19, 2013 | Full Review…

Manages to be both personal and true to its source, though it never quite comes together.

Feb 1, 2010 | Full Review…

An extraordinarily sumptuous piece of filmmaking.

Sep 22, 2008
Variety
Top Critic

Spurning Masterpiece Theatre twittiness, Scorsese cuts to the primal passions of Wharton's tale.

Jul 22, 2006

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.

Jul 22, 2006 | Rating: 4/5

Audience Reviews for The Age of Innocence

½

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.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

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.

Fernando Rafael Quintero Castañeda
Fernando Rafael Quintero Castañeda

Super Reviewer

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.

Alice Shen
Alice Shen

Super Reviewer

½

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.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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