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Film / Age of Consent

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Age of Consent is a 1969 romantic comedy-drama film directed by Michael Powell.

Bradley Morahan (James Mason) is an artist whose sculptures and paintings are selling quite nicely in New York, but who feels he has lost his creative spark. In an effort to find inspiration again, he goes back home to Australia, renting out a dilapidated cabin by the beach on a remote island.

He finds inspiration in the person of Cora, a shockingly gorgeous teenage girl played by 22-year-old Helen Mirren. Cora, an orphan in the care of an awful monstrous alcoholic grandma, longs to escape the island and move to Brisbane where she can become a hairdresser. Bradley and Cora start to form a bond as he paints her, but "Ma Ryan" (Neva Carr Glynn), her horror of a grandmother, threatens to ruin everything.

Powell's last theatrical feature, and Mirren's first starring role. Based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Norman Lindsay, whose life also inspired another movie about artists and sexy models, Sirens. This film is no relation to 1932 film The Age of Consent, except for the Jailbait Taboo being a plot point in both.


  • Abusive Parents: Abusive grandparent, in the form of Ma Ryan. When she catches a naked Cora in the shack trying on lipstick, she whacks her on the back with her cane.
  • Adaptational Wealth: Bradley is significantly more solvent in the film than he was in the novel. In the book he was struggling to make ends meet. In the film his art is selling well, he's just not having fun making it anymore.
  • The Alcoholic: Awful, awful Ma Ryan. There's a pile of empty gin bottles outside her shack. She's constantly swigging from a bottle. Cora notes that the last time Ma went to town she was arrested for public intoxication.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Ned the comic relief character is talking about how he had sex with the wife of his banker. The husband comes home and catches them. Ned says "Do you know what he did, the jealous bastard? He cut it off." (Beat) "My overdraft." (The line of credit at his bank, that is.)
  • Black Comedy Rape: Nat, who's looking for someone to sponge off of, starts courting Miss Marley, a lonely middle-aged lady. He's unctuously praising her cooking at dinner when she decides to stop wasting time, throws him off to the couch onto the floor, and jumps on top of him as he cries out in protest. The movie then cuts to a disheveled Ned returning to Bradley's cabin and saying "Brad, I've been raped." It's played for laughs.
  • Disney Villain Death: Ma Ryan steals the money that Cora's been squirreling away for passage off the island and on to Brisbane. Cora chases her down and confronts her. They tussle over the little bag of cash, a struggle that ends with Ma slipping and falling off a cliff to her death.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Miss Marley Black Comedy Rapes Bradley's annoying acquaintance Nat after apparently losing patience with him towards the end of their dinner date. A disheveled Ned arrives at Bradley's cabin the next morning and complains, "I've been raped". Cora is later sexually assaulted by the ferryman, which is not played for laughs—although her kneeing him in the groin, shoving him overboard in mid-ocean, and then forcing him to cling to a tow rope for the rest of the trip to the island is.
  • Dramatic Irony: The local cop returns to Bradley the stolen $300 he retrieved from Ned. The cop says "I may only be a country copper, but I don't miss much. No one puts anything over on me." This is right after Cora manipulated the scene to make it look like Ma fell off the cliff in a drunken stupor, when it really happened while she was fighting with Cora.
  • Erotic Film: An artist is enchanted by his sexy, voluptuous young model.
  • Fan Disservice: Scrawny, ugly old Ned shucking off all his clothes to go swimming on the beach.
  • Gilligan Cut: Bradley describes his old friend Ned as a "nice, shy, quiet sort of joker." This is followed by Ned bellowing "Brad you old bastard!" at the top of his lungs as he plows through a crowd to meet Brad.
  • Groin Attack: The guy ferrying people on and off the island in a motorboat tries to rape Cora. She knees him in the groin and pushes him off the boat.
  • Jailbait Taboo: Ma Ryan screeches that Cora is underage and that she will sic the police on Bradley. The potential creepiness of this onscreen is somewhat lessened by the fact that curvaceous Helen Mirren is not at all convincing as a teenaged girl.
  • The Ken Burns Effect: Used in the opening credits as the camera pans over a painting by Bradley Morahan of a scene on the beach with himself and Cora.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: One scene has Cora, who has been gaining confidence after posing for Bradley, letting her down from a bun in the shack. It's not the first time she's been scene with her hair down, but in this case it's symbolic, as in this instance she takes her dress off as well, looks at her naked body in the mirror, and starts putting on lipstick.
  • May–December Romance: Cora is a teenager. It's debatable how old Bradley is supposed to be (in Real Life James Mason was 60), but he's certainly well into middle age.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Skinnydipping, Sexy Soaked Shirt, Toplessness from the Back, nude modeling—the movie really gets maximum mileage out of Cora.
  • Naked People Trapped Outside: Ned is embarrassed when Miss Marley comes by with her dog while he's swimming naked in the water.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: For most of the movie Mason sounds more like he's Not Even Bothering with the Accent. It's only in a couple of scenes, like the one in the general store where he's making a phone call, that he manages to affect a vaguely Australian-sounding voice.
  • Scenery Porn: Dunk Island, Australia is shown off to great effect.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: In both Cora's first and last scenes she is wearing a thin cotton shift that gets soaked to her skin, leaving nothing to the imagination.
  • Skinnydipping: One of the more famous scenes in the movie features Cora swimming around the beach in the nude, looking for lobsters and oysters and such, while Bradley draws her.
  • True Art Is Angsty: In-Universe. Bradley is doing pretty well for himself in New York but chafes with discontent, not being happy with selling workmanlike art to rich people. He leaves for Australia to find his muse.