“Winter’s Tale” is one of those movies that think it’s more meaningful and powerful than it actually is. It tries to tell this incredible love story that spans over a century while mixing Lucifer, Demons, and Angels into the mix, but what it does overall is clutter itself with exposition and storylines that didn’t need to be there. It saddens me to say this, to an extent, because I actually thought this looked like a promising little movie. Plus, this is the theatrical directorial debut of Akiva Goldman, who is responsible for writing such films as “A Beautiful Mind” and “Cinderella Man.” Then again, he did also write “Batman Forever” and “Batman & Robin,” so this could have gone either way. Sadly, it went down a bad path, and in the end is just a mediocre film. The only things that are redeemable from it are Colin Farrell’s performance and the aspects of the story that are actually taken from the novel that this film is based upon. Otherwise, there’s no real reason to really go and check this one out.
Peter Lake was an orphan saved by his parents with the help of a miniature sailboat after they couldn’t get past Ellis Island when trying to immigrate to America. 20 years later, he is a robber who is on the hunt by a ruthless crime lord who wants his head for some personal reason that is never explained. Upon finding a mysterious white horse, Peter finds himself with Beverly Penn, a 20 something year old girl who is dying from tuberculosis. As these two become head over heels about one another, Beverly succumbs to her disease and dies, leaving Peter alone and sad that his one true love is gone. However, it is the love that Peter has for Beverly that keeps him alive, untouched by age, for over a century. Peter must find his purpose for living such an unusually long time, and come face to face with enemies from the past.
Colin Farrell always does a solid job in the roles he chooses, and here he is really good. The girl playing Beverly, Jessica Brown Findlay, is also quite good in the film, and her chemistry with Farrell is sweet and believable. Then there are small, cameo-esque performances from actors like Jennifer Connelly, Eva Marie Saint, and Will Smith, and they are all solid. And finally, we have the weakest link in the cast, Russell Crowe. His performance as this vengeful crime lord is so annoyingly over the top and zany that it makes his portrayal of Javert in “Les Misérables” look passable. Crowe is a great actor, as he has proven many times before, but he is just trying too hard here, and he was just that person who you want to slap on the face and say “get out of here” to. Then again, the screenplay is probably the best thing to blame for writing Crowe’s character so poorly.
Akiva Goldsman, the director of the film, also wrote the screenplay for it. I will give him some credit, for his directing styles weren’t that bad, and actually pretty solid for a first time filmmaker. His screenplay, on the other hand, is trying to be this incredible and epic tale of love that it forgot to A.) take its time with telling the story fully, and B.) write its characters pretty poorly. For example, Eva Marie Saint’s character is an older version of this little girl from when Peter Lake was loving Beverly. While it benefits the story and further advances it, the one big problem with this type of situation is that nobody, not even a 9 year old girl in 1914, could live to 2014 and still be living, breathing, and working like she did. I kept going through this in my head while she was on screen, and there was simply no way that this woman could be living such a successful life on her own at such an old age. That might be considered to be a nitpick, but I don’t care, that just really bugged me.
After reading the detailed plot of the book itself, I noticed that the entire second half was only loosely based on what happened in the book, and to me, it really wasn’t needed that much. The idea of having a man living over a century without aging I think is a great concept, but adding a subplot with a little kid having cancer, and trying to add Russell Crowe back in to the mix for no particular reason other than to have a climatic ending, I feel is lame. For a 2 hour film, it felt pretty rushed, especially in that second half, as we, the audience, are never given enough time to care for the newly added characters into the story, as well as give a damn about Crowe, a demon working for Lucifer, being out for revenge after a century of believing that he killed Lake. What could have been a sweet and powerful love story, thanks to Goldsman’s script, becomes a story that overstays its welcome and tries to add all of these new layers to it in oder to obtain the illusion that it’s this amazing magnum opus that will be remembered throughout the ages.
*END OF SPOILERS*
Even though I didn’t care for “Winter’s Tale,” I still found it entertaining, and I was invested the whole way through. It’s not the best told romantic story so far this year, but I was interested in what was going to happen to Peter and Beverly. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to make a good movie overall. The story had potential, but instead it felt rushed through and it focused a little too much on lights personally. (See the movie and you’ll understand what I mean) The script had some decent spots, but it is overall mediocre and clunky, so much so where it rushes through its second half and doesn’t give us time to get fully invested with these newly introduced characters. The acting is good from Colin Farrell and company, but Russell Crowe is just trying to hard and comes across more of a school bully rather than a menacing villain. “Winter’s Tale” had the potential to be a good, maybe even great romantic love story for Valentine’s Day, but in the end, it’s just a forgettable, mediocre movie that I doubt anyone will be talking about much come next weekend. And just to give one last little nitpick, the haircut that Colin Farrell dons for about 90% of the movie is one of the worst haircuts I’ve seen in recent memory. I mean, seriously, it looks like a yamaka on top of a poorly placed toupée.