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 kindred spirit and they fall in love. Written by
Marg Baskin <email@example.com>
On the park bench in Boston, Newland Archer sits down with Ellen Olenska. As he sits, his gloves are off, and we see his wedding ring. The camera cuts away and then back, and his gloves are on. He then removes them. See more »
I have seen "The Age of Innocence" about 15 times since 1994, and find
the argument as to whether it is boring or not to be fascinating.
Period films are not for everyone, and if you lack an appreciation for
subtlety then maybe something like "Joe Dirt" may be better suited for
you. But what lies beneath this wonderful movie is a priceless ode to
Michelle Pfeiffer plays Ellen Olenska, a proto-feminist who flees from
her failing European marriage to the home of her blood relatives in
1870's New York Society. She's been away for most of her life and the
States are foreign to her, but she quickly realizes that she is viewed
as threat, a black sheep ---and Society reacts to her as it would to a
dirty black spot on a carpet or on one of their tuxedo shirts. "Harmony
could be shattered by a whisper", as well narrated by Joanne Woodward.
Daniel Day-Lewis plays Newland Archer, an up-and-rising patriarch who
sees something in her that no one else in his rich circle could offer
him: an independent viewpoint to life. As a lawyer and a powerful
member of his family, he bravely tries to protect Ellen from basically
everyone, esp. members of their own family. Despite all of her
difficulties, Countess Olenska refuses to part from her individuality:
she smokes in front of Newland, does not hide from men in social
situations, and criticizes her surroundings. Archer doesn't necessarily
fall in love with her as a person but with what she represents:
Romanticism and escape.
There is a lot to love about this film, which is more like a piece of
art than a movie. Every scene and every bit of dialogue denotes
elegance and brutality simultaneously. All of the leading and
supporting characters are so believable and well formed that they trump
anything Hollywood has been throwing at us in recent months. And the
setting for this film is very unconventional, at least for the 90's.
Through excellent film-making, I can see why Society felt the need to
operate in such a ruthless fashion, in order to protect itself from
Ellen and what she represented to Newland, its newly crowned prince.
Over the past few months, I have also grown an appreciation for Winona
Ryder's performance as May. She is a shrewd politician, who uses her
"bright blindness" as a megaphone for Society's rules of conduct, a
weapon of manipulation against her destined husband Newland, and as a
way to continue plotting without easily being detected.
I wonder how many more times I will watch "The Age of Innocence" before
I risk being exposed to Hollywood's 21st century conformity, such as
"Independence Day" or "Wild, Wild West". All I know is that Ellen
Olenska (as one of my favorite cinematic heroines) serves to validate
my own sense of individuality, and neither she nor the astonishing
beauty of this Scorcese creation, will ever be boring. 10 out of 10
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