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Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder star in Martin Scorsese's dazzlingly virtuosic adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel.
Martin Scorsese's dazzling adaptation of Edith Wharton's 1920 novel chronicles a passionate almost-love affair set against the censorious, unforgiving and hypocritical background of the New York upper crust in the late nineteenth century. Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) is an idealistic young lawyer engaged to the naïve and girlish May Welland (Winona Ryder). When May's estranged cousin Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer) returns to the city, she is ostracized by the social set due to her "scandalous" divorce from a Polish count. Seeking to help his fiancée's family by helping integrate Ellen into the right circles, Newland finds himself increasingly drawn to the worldly countess, whose wit and spirit stands in stark contrast to May's propriety and lack of imagination. Torn between his desires and his equally powerful commitment to the "laws" of social convention, Newland struggles with the possibility of abandoning his social position for Ellen's love — but the conditional victories which Henry James allowed his subtle social rebels in The Europeans are not to be found in Wharton's heartrendingly tragic vision. Sumptuously shot, with exquisite and passionate performances from Day-Lewis and Pfeiffer and breathtakingly virtuosic direction by Scorsese, The Age of Innocence is "magnificent . . . Scorsese's most poignantly moving film" (Geoff Andrew, Time Out).