Society scion Newland Archer is engaged to May Welland, but his well-ordered life is upset when he meets May's unconventional cousin, the Countess Olenska. At first, Newland becomes a defender of the Countess, whose separation from her abusive husband makes her a social outcast in the restrictive high society of late-19th Century New York, but he finds in her a companion spirit and they fall in love. Written by
Marg Baskin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the novel, May Welland Archer is described as fair while Ellen Olenska has dark hair. Here in the film, it is switched since Winona Ryder as May is a brunette and Michelle Pfeiffer as Ellen is blonde. See more »
During the baptism of Newland's and May's child, the family priest blesses the child with "the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit" instead of "the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost". The usage of this phrase only came about after the revision of the Episcopalian prayer book in the 1920s. See more »
I actually saw this movie when it was released in 1993, and honestly it was pretty dull then. Of course I was 22, and the workings of that late-1800's New York society really didn't make much sense or have much relevance.
I think the film may have been ignored at its release because of the slew of other "period pieces" which were so popular (an eventually common) in the late 80's/early 90's... But watching it again 10 years later, this film is anything but common.
The true intensity is Scorcese's detached presentation of a hypocritical & hateful society which holds its members as prisoners.
Not to mention impeccable art direction & beautiful cinematography by the legendary Michael Ballhaus. The film looks as impressionistic as the paintings that line the walls of the characters' homes.
Scorsese is always acute in his casting decisions, and this is one of the films many virtues:
Lewis is perfect as a man who's struggle between his passion & his duty are constantly on the verge of devouring him (yet somehow he thrives on his torture).
Ryder is the seemingly innocent & naive girl who is completely manipulative & cunning underneath her exterior (gee, who would have thought?!) -- notice the arching scene.
In a sense, this was one of Pfeiffer's defining roles. Pfeiffer herself (in a sense) is an "outcast" who has never truly been accepted as a "serious" actress by her peers in the acting community. Watching this film again, it amazes me how this role somehow reflects her personal position in the current social structure of Hollywood, similar to her character existing in 1800's New York society.
What an amazing pic. I completely "missed it" the first time around. Great observance of "high society." Many of those codes are strangely applicable today.
Not recommended for those who like fast paced movies, or those who are looking for the "usual Scorcese." I would couple this with "Last Temptation of Christ" as Scorsese's most brave, artistic, demanding & abstract films to date.
131 of 148 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?