The Age of Innocence (1993) is not the only costume drama or historical picture that Martin Scorsese made but it is his only classical literary adaptation from the filmmaker that, all these years later, we still remember for edgy violence and cinematic energy. But even from the director of The Last Temptation of Christ, Kundun, and Silence, this film stands out for its grace and nuance in its portrait of social intercourse as formal ritual.
Adapted from Edith Wharton’s novel by Jay Cocks and Scorsese and set in 19th century New York City, it stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Newland Archer, a respected lawyer and respectable member of elite society who is engaged to the beautiful young May (Winona Ryder) but falls in love with her cousin, the worldly Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer). The American-born Ellen has spent the best years of her life in the social straightjacket of the European aristocracy and arrives home a stranger under the shadow of scandal, fleeing a bad marriage to a philandering European Count. At first Newland extends his friendship out of duty to May but soon finds Ellen’s honesty and insight refreshing and exciting. As he observes how his own society marks her as outcast he starts to see his own complicity in a social world just as petty and judgmental as the one Ellen has fled. That very complicity puts him at odds with his passions when he’s instructed to talk Ellen out of divorcing her husband and into returning to a loveless marriage to avoid tarnishing the family name. The same contract that he realizes he too will be entering.
House: Season Eight (Universal) opens with Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), TV’s most famous misanthrope medical genius, serving time for his actions at the end of Season Seven (namely driving his car into Dr. Lisa Cuddy’s living room, then fleeing the scene). And this is no country club for rich guys either, which is not a good fit for a reflexive contrarian like House. Luckily for him (and one supposes in an effort to keep the show from turning into a prison hospital drama) his former intern turned hospital surgeon Dr. Foreman (Omar Epps) pulls some strings and gets him paroled back in the old teaching hospital. He’s got a new team of young interns (Odette Annable and Charlyne Yi), one returning face (Peter Jacobson’s Dr. Taub), a new boss (Dr. Foreman), a running rivalry with former intern Chase (Jesse Spencer), and a much shorter leash.
Befitting the final season of long-running series with a dedicated fan base, the show takes its valedictory lap with return visits from almost every character who served on House’s team (Jennifer Morrison, Olivia Wilde, Amber Tamblyn) or was a serious part of his life (Sela Ward, Andrew Braugher), including those who passed away (Kal Penn, Anne Dudek). Glaringly absence is Lisa Edelstein as Cuddy, whose fight with the show’s creators was apparently final. There’s no closure to that central relationship, just fallout.
But the season’s main storyline centers on Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), who cuts ties with a still unapologetic House after his last betrayal, and his battle with cancer. Which means House has to cope with a drama where he’s not the center of attention.