With Age of Consent, Powell bewilders. His approach to James Mason and Helen Mirren’s dramatic arcs is excellent, but then he includes this terrible comedy material. He’s got a bunch of slapstick in an otherwise very gentle drama.
Mason is a successful artist who feels like a sellout so he runs off to isolate himself and try to figure out why he started painting in the first place. There is a Gauguin mention but it soon becomes clear Powell and Mason aren’t going down that road.
Instead, Mason finds teenager Mirren—living a miserable life on an island paradise—and she inspires him to start caring about his work again.
Both Mason and Mirren are fantastic. Mirren looks youngish but not the age she’s playing (she was twenty-four), which might contribute to Mason not coming off like a dirty old man. But it’s clear he’s excited about the work. Powell fills the art creation with wonderment. It’s amazing.
In those scenes, Peter Sculthorpe’s score adds another layer. Mirren’s never been good at anything until Mason comes along; the music conveys her newfound pride.
Unfortunately, when it’s the comedy stuff involving the idiotic character played by Jack MacGowran, who’s a pest annoying Mason, Age of Consent flops. Then there’s Neva Carr-Glynn as Mirren’s evil grandmother. Carr-Glynn plays it like she’s the Wicked Witch, which hurts the film.
But those elements can’t do too much damage; Powell, Mason and Mirren are too strong.
They even survive the theme song.
Directed by Michael Powell; screenplay by Peter Yeldham, based on the novel by Norman Lindsay; director of photography, Hannes Staudinger; edited by Anthony Buckley; music by Peter Sculthorpe; produced by Powell and James Mason; released by Columbia Pictures.
Starring James Mason (Bradley Morahan), Helen Mirren (Cora Ryan), Jack MacGowran (Nat Kelly), Neva Carr-Glynn (Ma Ryan), Andonia Katsaros (Isabel Marley), Michael Boddy (Hendricks), Harold Hopkins (Ted Farrell), Slim DeGrey (Cooley), Frank Thring (Godfrey, the Art Dealer) and Clarissa Kaye-Mason (Meg).