The Age of Innocence (1993)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Age of Innocence</strong> (1993)

(On DVD, February 2011) Subtle, nuanced and character-driven, The Age of Innocence nonetheless never has to struggle to keep our interest.  As a piece of American Victoriana, it’s almost endlessly fascinating: the New-York upper-class of 1870 had issues to work through, and director Martin Scorsese lavishly places us in the middle of that society.  As a drama of manners, The Age of Innocence carefully establishes the rules than bind the characters, then follow them as they try (or don’t try) to rebel against them.  Given that this is a Scorsese picture, both script and direction are self-assured and surprisingly timeless.  Even the voiceover, usually a sign of lazy screenwriting, here adds another layer of polish to the film.  Production credentials are impeccable, with careful costuming, set design and even split-second glimpses at elaborate dishes.  Daniel Day-Lewis is exceptional as a deeply conflicted man of his time, while Michelle Pfeiffer reminds us of how good she was in her heyday and Winona Rider turns in an underhanded performance as a constantly-underestimated ingénue.  It all builds up to a quiet but shattering emotional climax that amply justifies the picture’s sometimes-lazy rhythm.  Worth seeing and pondering as one realizes that the protagonist pays for the right crime but for the wrong reasons.

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