February 15, 2014
Winter's Tale is based on an expansive novel by Mark Helperin, it is a fantasy said to concern itself with the complexity of the human soul, human purpose, love, and justice. Or something to that effect, I have not read the book so I cannot say, what I can say is that this movie, written and directed by Akiva Goldsman, fails to do the source justice. I am assuming this is the case as I cannot imagine the book being worse then this movie. I am not one to condone comparing mediums, but I think you need to know the book to decipher what is going on here. To me, that is bad film making. This fails at every turn.
It is hard to know where to begin. All right, let's take a quick pass at the story. We are initially given voice over mumbo jumbo about the soul and having one wish and becoming stars when you die, blah blah blah We settle on a couple looking to emigrate to the US, but upon their rejection, they beg the guard to find a place for their baby. That, too, is rejected, and the couple end up putting their baby in a model boat and letting it loose in New York Harbor as they sail back to wherever they came from. It was pretty much here the movie began to lose me.
Jump ahead to 1915 and the baby is grown up, Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), and is a thief who is on the run after some unknown disagreement with his boss, Pearly Songs (Russell Crowe). Before heading for the hills, he decides to rob one more place. It turns out the house isn't empty. Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a young woman dying of consumption, is there and catches Peter before he steals anything. They immediately fall in love, despite her condition and impending death. Pearly wants to stop their love and tries his best to do so. However, some things happen, Peter is dumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and we pick up the story in 2014, Pete Lake has not aged a day, but he has lost his memories. Everything leads up to an ending that has little to do with the opening and the credits thankfully roll.
Yes, there is stuff that goes on in between, but there is little connective tissue tying it together and there is little reason to really care about it. The thing about this movie is that it is heavily built on fantasy elements, however, those fantasy elements are never given context or rules. I am willing to accept a lot, but generally there is a modicum of sense to it, in the case of Winter's Tale, there is no sense, things happen and the plot moves but it never builds up to anything. It is all hopeless pablum.
Just watch this thing unfold. We are meant to believe that Peter and Beverly are madly in love, a relationship that lasts mere days and not once sees them actually talk to each other as people, they exist to fulfill the others ideal for what they think romance is, while never actually having any chemistry. Pearly is revealed to be a demon who can tell the future using gemstones, is a persona never really explored or explained, and visits Lucifer (Will Smith, yes, Will Smith) under a bridge. In the future part of the story Jennifer Connelly is a food writer who helps the amnesiac Peter Lake, but never has any sort of real conversation. It was utterly maddening watching these characters walk about speaking in platitudes that mean nothing.
Now, those two warning words, Akiva Goldsman. Now, I am sure he is a nice fellow, and he has been quite successful, but when I look over his filmography, I do not see much that I enjoy, from Batman and Robin to Lost in Space, from A Beautiful Mind to Cinderella Man, not to mention the two Dan Brown adaptations. On top of that, this is his feature directorial debut. It seems clear that while he may like this material, he was the wrong person to adapt it, based on the bad dialogue, awful flow, and terrible character chemistry.
I found Winter's Tale to be almost laughable. I like Farrell, but he was wrong for this role. The presence of Smith was pretty funny. Crowe seems to know he is in garbage and plays it way over the top. Connelly looks bewildered and lost, perhaps she landed on the wrong set and they just used her. And let's not get into the whole angels and demons thing, the horse with angel wings that is referred to as a dog, the utter lack of actual romance, the presence of a child with cancer to garner unwarranted sympathy, unexplained rules of fantasy, this list goes on.
I was happy when it was over, and it seemed like many others in the crowd felt the same way. I went in hoping for something different, something magical, something genuine. I had the rug pulled out from under me and was given a rambling mess of stuff with no magic, no romance, no reason to care.
Posted by Christopher Beaumont at 2/15/2014 04:37:00 PM
Labels: 2010s, 2014, Adaptation, Akiva Goldsman, Colin Farrell, Movie Review, Romance, Russell Crowe, Supernatural, Will Smith
Chris has been an avid movie watcher for decades, getting into the writing game in 2004. Since that time he has contributed to a number online publications as well as running CriticalOutcast.com. In addition to movies, Chris is a big fan of music, particularly metal, and will never give up hope on his beloved Mets.