Today I have quick little review of two period films I finally watched recently, The Age of Innocence and A Room With a View. I have a whole list of "older" period films that I have never seen before, and by "older" I mean films that came out before 2004-ish as I was too young to watch/appreciate them back in the day.
The first film I watched was Martin Scorsese's 1993 film The Age of Innocence. I had seen photos of the delectable costumes from this film floating around the internet before and their beauty was my motivation to finally watch this film. The costumes did not disappoint, they were gorgeous! Impeccably stunning gowns. It did bother me that the film says it is set in the 1870's and the costumes are clearly natural form era, aka late 70's into the 1880's but it only bothered me for that first few minutes when I was saying to myself "no by the clothes this is definitely 1880 guys"
The film itself was good, I know there are people who rave about it but I can't say I'd even re-watch it. The acting is great, the three leads are all excellent. I believe my problem is that I just don't really like Michelle Pfeiffer very much, something about her always says untrustworthy/villain to me. Since I didn't know how the plot would go I was afraid she was going to double cross everyone the whole time, for some reason I just have this weird bias! Winona looks like a Victorian doll in this film and plays May wonderfully. Daniel Day Lewis is such a great actor and is rather attractive in his ascots and waistcoats so there is that too.
Now stop reading until the text goes black again if you don't want the plot spoiled.
I just didn't buy Countess Olenska as being worth all this trouble. I get it, she is everything May isn't, but I mean worth all this heartache? Then the fact that Newland doesn't break off the engagement when May gives him the chance was just infuriating. She completely gives him the opportunity for them both to find better partners and live happier fuller lives and he refuses. Would it be scandalous to break off the engagement? Yes. Would it be better than the potential adultery scandal later, also yes. An adultery scandal or a loveless marriage are not the only two options! May gave him an out and I was just mad at Newland for the rest of the film honestly.
Also I didn't really enjoy the whole 'lets pit women against each other' in a very classical whore vs virgin way. Poor May was raised to be the perfect wife and was, why is this seen as a horrible cross for Newland to bear I cannot understand. I don't care how Victorian you are, Newland could have drawn May out of her propriety induced shell a bit more (seeing as she is obviously more competent than Newland understands, as he later finds out) if he had wanted to by being more open and honest with her; especially after they were married and he had trapped them together. I also think we are suppose to hate May a bit when she secures her marriage with her white-lie-but-actually-true pregnancy but I didn't at all. I see a smart woman there, not a mean one. After all he's the one who wants to run away and cheat leaving her in a Scandal with an infant! Countess Olenska actually has more moral fiber than Newland does, and more often than not removes herself from Newland appropriately after he and May are married. I did like that she genuinely did not want to ruin her cousins life and was still very kind to May. You go Countess, two for you Countess.
Obviously the plot got to me so this movie did it's job, I just wouldn't watch it again. I can't help but feel like Newland put all three of them through hell by forcing the marriage when he didn't have to!
Rant over, anyway...Lets look at the costumes for a bit yes? The costumes in this film are beautiful, and so are most of the sets. Though I found the plot frustrating to watch, visually the film itself was rather a treat. There were some interesting special effects/transitions that I could have done without but I did like the random title card bits because they added a bit of humor which was needed.
Just gorgeous costumes!
I have to admit, as an experience I enjoyed A Room With a View much more than The Age of Innocence. I suppose because a film about falling in love is nicer to watch that one about frustrating love triangles! In Merchant Ivory's 1986 film A Room With a View, Helena Bonham Carter is Lucy Honeychurch, a young girl on a trip to Italy with her aunt (Maggie Smith!) as her chaperon and companion. She meets all kinds of people at their hotel, including a mysterious young man, who she later meets again upon her return to England. In England she has a very suitable fiance (again Daniel Day Lewis, who I seriously did not recognize at all until I saw his name on IMBD, here he is completely different from Newland in the last film!). What will happen when the young man from Italy moves into the village though? Also--young Rupert Graves! Lestrade what are you doing here! (also why are you naked? but anyway...) He was quite adorable back in 86, not that he isn't handsom now too.
As an added plus, both Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are in this film. Their scenes are super adorable and the film is worth watching just for them being cute really. Helena Bonham Carter is so young and cute in this film too, she has a lovely spirit and vibe as Lucy! This film is in general lighter, and has more humor than The Age of Innocence. The costumes are perfect in the sense that I didn't take a superior notice of them, they just blended in perfectly. They aren't stunning like those in The Age of Innocence, but they are well done and suit the romantic quality of the film.