New Age, The (1994): Michael (The Rapture) Tolkin’s Dark Satire, Starring Judy Davis and Peter Weller

“The New Age, novelist Michael Tolkin’s second feature as a director, following “The Rapture” in 1991 and “The Player” (which he scripted and Altman directed to great acclaim) continues his satirical exploration of self-absorbed, obsessed and driven yuppies who live in the City of Angels and are on the verge of economic and social catastrophe.


The narrative charts the downward spiral of a doomed couple (played by Judy Davis and Peter Weller) with giddy fascination and some bright insights if not too much depth.  At the time, the comedy divided critics and did not find an appreciative audience, but years later, it holds up as a morality tale that reflects the zeitgeist of the early 1990s, during the Clinton Administration.


Wealthy and privileged, Peter and Catherine Witner seem to have everything materialistic they need—-except for a stable marriage. When the tale begins, their already shaky bond continues to crumble when both lose their gainful employments.


In an effort to rescue their lives, they decide to put to practice what they perceive as their best qualities—shopping and talking–and open an upscale clothing and accessory boutique.


Not neglecting their personal and sexual lives, each pursues romantic affairs with other partners, deluding themselves that the new bonds also have spiritual dimensions.


They feel they should take advantage from the enlightenment of the new age, one that has left its mark on the economy, religion, and even interpersonal relationships.


As scribe, Tolkin infuses his tale with sporadic wit and glitzy surface style, courtesy of cinematographer John J. Campbell and production designer Robin Standefer.  While Judy Davis, an expert at delivering sarcastic lines, responds to the challenges of the text, Weller does not.  In the end, the characters seem so emotionally troubled and empty-headed that few viewers will be able to relate to them empathetically. Most of the supporting characters have little to do but wander in and out of the central couple’s life.




Peter Weller

Judy Davis

Adam West

Samuel L. Jackson

Corbin Bernsen