THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
Dir. Martin Scorsese; Writ. Edith Wharton (novel), Jay Cocks & Scorsese; Feat. Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder, Alexis Smith, Geraldine Chaplin (PG)
Nearly a decade before his ultra-ambitious Gangs of New York, Martin Scorsese bit off a smaller chunk of the Big Apple's history. The Age of Innocence also started with a book, Edith Wharton's portrait of upper-class mores and manners, and the filmmakers are faithful to Wharton's tone. Filled with suppressed emotions and decorous dialogue, it appeared to be startlingly un-Scorsese material - but the director was up to the challenge.
The fact that Scorsese coaxed actor Daniel Day-Lewis out of seclusion for Gangs is a testament to his performance in this film, which is infinitely more subtle than last winter's appearance but no less powerful. Playing a man torn between love and obligation to his community, Day-Lewis is a pressure-cooker that never explodes, and by the film's end what might have been a Mean Streets-worthy cataclysm is a quiet but profoundly sad non-event. — JOHN DEFORE