Review: Winter's Tale
PLOT:In 1916 New York City, Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is an expert thief, on the run from the notorious Short Tails gang, led by the diabolical Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe) who’s somehow connected to Lucifer himself and determined to stop Lake from performing his “miracle”. This miracle is somehow connected to a flying white horse, which magically shows up to rescue Peter any time he’s in trouble, and a dying young woman named Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay) who quickly steals Peter’s heart.
REVIEW:WINTER’S TALE is a fascinating film. Oh, it’s not good, not by a long shot, but damn if it’s not one of the more entertaining movies to come out this month. Every once in a while, a bad movie comes out that’s so stunningly bad, but “oh so sincere” that sitting through it is the cinematic equivalent to watching a train wreck. You’re horrified, but at the same time you just can’t look away.
And make no mistake, WINTER’S TALE is bad. On the journey from the page to the big screen, something went horribly awry with Mark Helprins classic, and that thing seems to be Akiva Goldsman. A veteran screenwriter, Goldsman’s earned the ire of many a fanboy (and girl) with him being responsible for the scripts to BATMAN FOREVER, BATMAN & ROBIN, POSEIDON, THE DAVINCI CODE, and more. Then again, he also wrote A BEAUTIFUL MIND and CINDERELLA MAN, so clearly there’s talent there. Apparently, this has been his passion project for years, and he uses it to make his big-screen directorial debut.
An ambitious film, even for a veteran director, somehow Goldman had to distill a 600 page + book into a two hour movie, while still making the narrative clear enough so that audiences won’t be confused as to why Peter goes from living in 1916, to walking the streets of NYC in 2014 without having aged a day. Sadly, Goldman is not successful, as WINTER’S TALE is so watered-down and muddled that the film is often utterly confounding. Bizarrely, the more unclear the narrative gets, the more entertaining the film becomes as it goes from being merely mediocre into a truly awful piece of work that occasionally crosses over into the hallowed ranks of the “so bad it’s good.”
Given all the time-hopping, and ultra-saccharine (yet straight-faced) dialogue that actually has Colin Farrell demand to know whether “it’s possible to love someone so much that they can’t die”, one can’t help but wonder if WINTER’S TALE might have worked better as an animated movie. For one thing, it would have eliminated one of the most painfully unconvincing CGI eyesores in years, which is Colin Farrell’s white horse, which occasionally sprouts CGI wings that make him look like a less believable version of the old Tri-Star Pictures horse from the eighties.
That said, animation would have robbed us of Russell Crowe’s hilariously over-the-top performance as the diabolical Pearly Soames, who receives instructions from none-other than Lucifer himself. Crowe’s actually pretty great as Soames. I don’t know if I’d call it one of his legitimately good parts, but considering the movie he’s in, he hits all the right notes. Even when the movie is failing spectacularly, Crowe’s around to chew the scenery and entertain us.
Ah, but what of the big-name actor who plays Lucifer himself in an extended cameo??? While it’s been widely reported, in an effort to avoid spoilers, we here at JoBlo decided to make this next bit invisible. If you want to know, just highlight the next few lines with your mouse. Will Smith plays Lucifer. I’m not joking. Sporting some earrings and anachronistically dressed in a blazer over a print T-shirt (in 1916 mind you), Smith shows up in two scenes (clearly shot back-to-back) where he orders around Crowe’s Soames, and even sprouts CGI fangs. This alone almost makes WINTER’S TALE a must-see in theaters, as the audience reaction to his appearance is sure to be hilarious.
One has to feel bad for stars Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay, who give it their all. Farrell is such a good actor that it’s a shame to see him wasted in fluff like this. Farrell also seems too old for the role, being in his late-thirties, while the character is supposed to be twenty-one. Findlay is good casting as the terminally ill young woman (not a far cry from her role in DOWNTON ABBEY) but she’s so saintly that she can’t help but seem a little boring, at least compared to Crowe’s demonic baddie. Befitting Goldsman’s stature, tons of other big names turn up in small parts, with Matt Bomer inexplicably cast as Farrell’s Russian immigrant dad, while Jennifer Connelly gets a sizable but bland part as a modern-day woman drawn into Farrell’s quest.
At nearly one thousand words, I’ve still barely scratched the surface about what makes WINTER’S TALE such a fascinatingly bad movie, but suffice to say somewhere along the way it all went horribly awry for Goldsman, who seemed genuine in his passion to translate this novel to the big-screen, Other than a nice musical score by Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams, this is an all-out disaster, but it’s nevertheless a must for connoisseurs of bad cinema.