Magical horses, angels, demons and Russell Crowe… Okay, then. Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay and Academy Award winners Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt and Russell Crowe star in the film adaptation of the best-selling novel, Winter’s Tale.
Cast of Characters:
Peter Lake – Colin Farrell
Beverly Penn – Jessica Brown Findlay
Virginia Gamely – Jennifer Connelly
Isaac Penn – William Hurt
Willa Penn – Eva Marie Saint
Pearly Soames – Russell Crowe
Director – Akiva Goldsman
Screenplay – Akiva Goldsman
Based on the novel Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin
Producer – Akiva Goldsman, Marc E. Platt, Michael Tadross & Tony Allard
Rated PG-13 for violence and some sensuality
Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is a burglar running away from his boss leader Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe) following a disagreement with him. While out on the run, he breaks into a home, intending to rob the place, but instead runs into Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay). He’s instantly smitten by her and her by him as well, but unfortunately he’s informed by her that she’s dying of consumption.
Hey, no one died in Endless Love or About Last Night. It’s Valentine’s Day weekend. Someone’s love interest is dying dammit!
Eventually caught by Pearly, Peter is beaten and killed by his gang, but magically wakes up about 100 years later in 2014, not knowing where or who he is. There, he meets Virginia Gamely (Jennifer Connelly), who may be able to help him rediscover his past.
I had the same reaction to this film as I did when I saw Bridge to Terabithia (I hadn’t read the book before seeing the film), which was horribly marketed in a way that made it appear like some Chronicles of Narnia film. Then I saw Bridge to Terabithia and realized it was nothing like it was marketed. Likewise, Winter’s Tale – while having a supernatural time travel story – contains many “What the hell?!” moments, not shown in the trailers, that took me by surprise, even for a film of its kind. I won’t give any away, but the first involved Russell Crowe in a restaurant and it had me wondering just what the hell kinda movie this was.
Maybe I should’ve read the book first.
Regardless of whether I read the book first prior to seeing the film, here’s the difference. Bridge to Terabithia still worked, in spite of the poor marketing. Winter’s Tale is a hugely disappointing, gigantic, steaming pile of crap, quite possibly dropped by that magical flying horse (Which, according to Pearly, is actually a dog?) in the movie.
How this film was able to take four Oscar winners (Connelly, Crowe, Hurt and the legendary Eva Marie Saint), a fetching young female star, a Hans Zimmer score, and Caleb Deschanel cinematography and turn it into a massive train wreck is beyond me.
This is the directorial debut of screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, who also adapted the screenplay from the Mark Helprin novel of the same name. Goldsman won an Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for A Beautiful Mind (great movie, but you could also argue Ghost World and In the Bedroom were just as deserving, if not more) and also penned Cinderella Man. Keep in mind, though, he also wrote Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, cheese ball drama A Time to Kill, Lost in Space, Practical Magic and the two Da Vinci Code movies. His writing his schmaltzy, of course, but his flaws as a rookie director are more evident, sticking out like an exploding Las Vegas neon sign. Combining elements of horror, fantasy, drama, romance, and sci-fi, Winter’s Tale is an extremely ambitious film, too ambitious for its own good even. The dramatic shifts in tone made it clear to me that Goldsman really didn’t know how to handle the source material and was in over his head.
It’s no wonder Martin Scorsese, who was originally looked at to direct this film, backed out, deeming it “un-filmable”. I’m not saying the book isn’t good. It might be a fantastic read, but just because it makes a great book, doesn’t mean it’s gonna be a great movie. This could’ve been a good film, but it needed the right filmmaking hands there to put it together.
Such a shame too ’cause it’s beautifully shot by Caleb Deschanel, co-scored by Hans Zimmer and features an incredible A-list cast. That cast is mostly squandered, though. William Hurt somehow manages to do the impossible by giving an uninteresting performance. Russell Crowe is in the type of a role that lets you have a bit of fun, but he hams it up too much, even for this character. Jennifer Connelly appears like she wishes she could rip up the contract she signed for this film as she’s crammed into the final act, and although it’s great to see Eva Marie Saint back onscreen (still looking great at 89, by the way), she appears rather spry and energetic for a character that should technically be about 105, if we’re going by the correct year span.
105 and still running a newspaper organization. That Geritol must be working.
There’s also an A-list cameo (I won’t give it away) that is easily the miscast of the year so far. He shares his scenes with Crowe and you’d think pairing these two actors together would be great to see. This cameo is such a misfit, though, despite his talent as an actor, that it actually took me out of the film for a moment.
The film’s one redeeming element: Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay (from TV’s Downton Abbey). They certainly have to wade through the muck that is Goldsman’s dialogue, but they do share a great chemistry and are certainly more believable as a couple than Pettyfer and Wilde were in Endless Love. Findlay, in particular, is a magnificent screen presence. I wanna see this girl in more film ’cause she’s gorgeous, of course, but I think she has the talent capable of building a great film career if she plays her cards right. She ain’t getting it here though.
Unlike Endless Love, which I expected to be a giant dog turd crapped out on a lawn and was right, Winter’s Tale was a film I was looking forward to and wanted to like, but ultimately was let down big time. It’s a very attractive cast, but, aside from Farrell and Findlay, immense talents are wasted in an incomprehensible story that doesn’t translate to the screen as well as better hands probably could’ve done. This will certainly divide viewers in the love it/hate it camp. Consider me in the latter category. Damn shame too.
I give Winter’s Tale a D (★).
REVIEWS COMING LATER NEXT WEEK…
2/17/14 What the Hell Were They Thinking?!
2/18/14 Benjamin’s Stash
2/20/14 Knights of Badassdom
2/21/14 3 Days to Kill