The Age of Innocence (1993)

Martin Scorsese, doing period pieces??

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Newland Archer, a well-bred New Yorker engaged to an appropriate match: cultured May Welland (Winona Ryder). But when her alluring cousin, Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), comes along, Archer puts society’s mores to the test.

Martin Scorsese is most known for directing all the violent gangster epics, and places this film in New York, but in the 1870s, where the violence isn’t physical, its psychological.

Scorsese’s direction is what really wins this film over, because unlike many other period pieces, this does not get very boring. The film isn’t lightning quick fast like Goodfellas, or Mean Streets, but it still has that fairly mild pacing that keeps our eyes glued to the screen. There is also plenty of great things to look at, with many vibrant colors coming into one scene, and then another, showing this world as if it were a rainbow, with so many dirty little secrets inside, not to quote the All American Rejects. Scorsese shows that with this film he can not just make films about people getting whacked, but more poignant stories about love and tranquility.

But really no film would be anything without a great script, and that is surprisingly what this film has. There are a lot of stereotypes that period pieces have, about everybody in the film being all goody goody rich S.O.B’s, but that’s what Scorsese knocks down, and shows differently. His script is very well-written showing how all these people hide behind their lies, and act as if nothing is wrong, and what if somebody was to go against that? Would it be wrong to do, or would it be just the right thing? The film hits the nail on the head, right when it comes to this forbidden love and actually showing these two people as human beings, who have a need for love in their life, rather than just money, and being spoiled. We really get a sense and feel for this love triangle, and you don’t get that much nowadays. We always get car chases, gun battles, and over-the-top fist fights, but never this much pain, and feeling it.

The main problem I had with this film was although its still a nice departure from Scorsese’s gangster flicks, it still doesn’t seem like this is the kind of movie he wants to make. I think what he was trying to do was take a departure from his recent violent films, and try something a little different and see where it goes from there. When you watch Goodfellas you can tell there is a lot of inspiration going on behind the camera, right here, ehh not so much. Don’t get me wrong the film is good, its just that in ways, it could have been better with a different director, who isn’t used to all this blood and gore.

Daniel Day-Lewis as usual is very good here and gives off a performance that not many know, because of the second time Scorsese and him collaborated on was in 2002 with Gangs of New York.

What happens when you do too many period pieces.

He is not only effective, just because of the emotion he shows, but also the fact that his character does a total change in the middle of the movie, and you can believe it. Pfeiffer is very powerful in her performance showing a huge great deal of star-quality, with her wise/old character, but proves that age doesn’t mean a thing, when you can show emotion like her. Day-Lewis and her show a lot of good chemistry, especially when their both not trying to caught together. Ryder is also surprisingly very good here, and its actually a real shocker. The screenplay has her character out to be a one-note sucker for Day-Lewis’ character, but instead she brings plenty of believable emotion into the character, and makes her a better character with that emotion she gives off.

Consensus: Though Scorsese’s heart is not behind this material such as others like Goodfellas or Mean Streets, The Age of Innocence is still a nice departure from those gangster flicks, with a pitch-perfect screenplay, lush visuals, and great performances from the cast.


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