Winter's Tale: Movie Review
Cast: Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Will Smith, Jessica Brown Findlay, William Hurt, Jennifer Connelly
Director: Akiva Goldsman
Ah, Valentine's Day - the time of year when syrupy mush is served up to the lovelorn cinematic masses so they can snuggle up to their beloved and leave with warm fuzzies.
The latest entrant into the paean is an adaptation of the 1983 Mark Helprin book set in a mythic New York City where demons roam in human form, taking down humans and advancing the fight of good vs evil.
Farrell plays Peter Lake, an Irish orphan, who's living a life of thieving and getting by in 1916 New York. But he's angered the boss of a mob, Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe in dead eyed Irish accent mode) and has a price on his head.
It all changes for Lake though, when he meets the consumption-ridden Beverley Penn (Downton Abbey's Lady Sybil aka Jessica Brown Findlay) and falls in love. But when tragedy strikes, Lake finds himself in 2014 New York with another chance to redeem himself....and give it all for love again.
Winter's Tale starts with a plummy British voiceover explaining the virtues of the stars and how the angels are born and goes downhill from there pretty quickly.
Mixing in a smattering of the mystical into a dour film, it very rarely stops to offer any kind of real explanation of what's going on or make you believe in the truly implausible romance between Beverley and Peter (as they fall for each other over a cup of tea). It's supposed to mix in magic thanks to a white horse guardian who appears to Peter at a time of need and can fly away, but there's no sense of it ever really soaring in any shape or form.
Dreary performances (with the exception of Brown Findlay, whose luminescence and lively eyes light up the screen) taint the movie and rob it of any feeling other than of actors on auto-pilot. Farrell looks non-plussed in the moments that he's not trying desperately to emote as he pours tears from under his caterpillar like eyebrows; even he struggles with getting any kind of grasp of what's going on; Crowe looks constipated as he tries to glower as an angry demon; Smith crops up as Lucifer (!) and seems completely lost and Connelly is totally wasted and wishy washy as a mom whose child has cancer in the present day segment of the movie.
Perhaps the worst part of this is that a kiss from Farrell's character evidently can cure child of said illness, a move that feels crass, badly written and executed on screen - and rankles you even more in the final moments. Throw in some shonky CGI for the flying horse and it looks as if you've got a contender for one of the worst romantic movies of all time. Even with heavy handed talk of miracles laid on in spades, and utter tosh in the voiceovers talking of the great design of life, there's not even a remote hint of subtle sentimentality coming into play.
But here's the thing with Winter's Tale - there's just no emotion or feeling to it whatsoever, leaving you more with the impression that you've just wasted 2 hours of your life thanks to a cloying, confusing narrative that doesn't play up the eternal love angle, it simply doesn't seem to know what story it really wants to tell. It relies on wild leaps of faith from the audience throughout, and doesn't reward them for taking the chance or the journey. It's a fantasy movie without any of the fantastical.
And that's the cruellest blow possible on a day when love is supposed to reign supreme.