Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a lawyer who is happily engaged to May (Winona Ryder). His life however turns upside down when he meets and falls in love with May’s scandalous cousin, Ellen (Michelle Pfeiffer).
I’d been meaning to watch The Age of Innocence for some time, it seemed like it would be something interesting. Sure, it had Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder, but what was interesting to me was Martin Scorsese directing this, a period piece of all things. Not to slam period pieces, and he has occasionally tried different things (New York, New York and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore for instance) but I didn’t know what to expect from him with this. I actually liked it a lot more than I thought, and it really deserves a lot more love than its been receiving.
The Age of Innocence quite a long movie at under 2 hours and 20 minutes, I will admit that I started off watching the movie not really fully invested but it grew on me as it progressed. I think part of my initial problem was the fact that a bunch of information is being thrown at you through narration early on and there’s a lot that you have to know, but after everything was established and set up, I was on board with the movie through to the end. The screenplay from both Martin Scorsese and Jay Cocks was really great, you wouldn’t normally think of Scorsese as the right person to take on a story about an upper class affair scandal period piece drama, but he actually fits in very well. The Age of Innocence remains one of his most effectively passionate and emotional films, he’s actually called this his most violent movie, and even though there isn’t a drop of blood, he’s correct. As someone who doesn’t usually watch period pieces (not that I dislike them or anything), I was quite invested in what went on. The ending is also perfect for the film, couldn’t think of a better way to end it.
The talented cast did very well in their roles. Daniel Day-Lewis is really good as per usual, I wouldn’t consider this to be one of his all time best performances, but he’s nonetheless great. Michelle Pfeiffer gives one of the best performances of her career, and Winona Ryder also gives a great and complex performance. There are also some minor supporting performances from the likes of Richard E. Grant and Jonathan Pryce, who don’t leave as strong of an impression but are good enough in their brief roles.
Martin Scorsese did a very good at adapting his directional style to one that works for a period piece, and his work here is once again nothing less than fantastic. It’s a stunning movie, very well shot and edited. Scorsese really captured the time period excellently, and showed off the great production designs, locations and the costumes well. If there’s one aspect of the direction I wasn’t loving, it was all the narration. As time went on, I grew into it, but I remember being put off early on when there was a bunch of exposition and explaining done over voice over. A lot of it was explaining all the characters and while I get that it’s partly necessary with so many characters, it went a little overboard. After everything was established though, I thought the narration was used at the right level.
The Age of Innocence might not be among my favourite of Scorsese’s films, but there’s a lot here to be loved. His direction was outstanding, after the first 30 minutes or so I was invested in this story and the lead characters well enough, and the performances (mainly from Day-Lewis, Pfeiffer and Ryder) are all really great. I’d strongly recommend at least giving it a chance. The more I think about The Age of Innocence, the more I think I’m going to love it the next time I watch it again.