Overlooked & Underseen: The Age of Innocence
“A Martin Scorsese film, overlooked and underseen? What!?” you ask. “How is this even possible?” you ponder. Well, it’s true. I was having a conversation with someone on Twitter (I’m sorry, I forgot with whom) about Scorsese and he used the term “Scorsese Bros”. He said these are guys who love the machismo of Goodfellas and The Wolf of Wall Street who won’t bother to watch something like this week’s film selection, The Age of Innocence. A shame, really, since this is one of Scorsese’s best.
The Age of Innocence, based on Edith Wharton’s 1920 novel of the same name, revolves around the lives of Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis), his fiancée May Welland (Winona Ryder) and her cousin the Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer). Archer feels he is doing his duty by marrying May. When he meets the Countess, his life turns upside down. He realizes he was never in love with May and he’s willing to give up everything to be with the Countess. Hot stuff, let me tell you! There is a scene where Archer unbuttons the Countess’ glove and kisses her wrist, which is one of the most erotic things I’ve ever seen on screen.
The scenes between Day-Lewis and Pfeiffer are some of the most poignant I’ve seen, too. The ache these two characters feel for each other is palpable. Their relationship is one of heartbreak and I feel it every damn time I watch this movie. We all know Day-Lewis is one of the best actors, but Pfeiffer gets the short shrift when it comes to ability, but in The Age of Innocence she is everything. Oddly enough, it was Winona Ryder who was nominated for an Academy Award for her work in this movie when Pfeiffer was much more deserving.
The Age of Innocence is one of Scorsese’s most beautiful looking films. Everything about this movie is gorgeous; the sets, the costumes (which won the Academy Award), the cinematography, all of it. The film was rather a departure for Scorsese, his two films prior to this one were Cape Fear and the aforementioned Goodfellas. With The Age of Innocence, Scorsese proved he can shoot something other than mobsters and macho men. It was set apart from his films at the time because of its remarkable subtleness. One doesn’t usually think of the word "subtle" when one thinks of Scorsese. Raging Bull is not a subtle movie, for instance. Make no mistake though, just because it is subtle does not mean it is any less brutal. There is an emotional brutality to The Age of Innocence that can be painful to watch. But watch it, you should.