Ah, the romantic fantasy novel. Hollywood’s bread and butter for so long, and lately making a huge resurgence thanks to the plethora of young-adult tripe being published weekly. “Winter’s Tale” digs a little deeper, back to the 1983 novel by Mark Helprin. It’s deep, existential, lovey-dovey, everything is light… trash, really. And sadly, the movie is even worse.
“Winter’s Tale” follows Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), a petty thief in 1916, on the run from his former employer, Pearly (Russell Crowe, in his strangest performance since “Virtuosity”). Pearly is apparently some kind of demon intent on making sure that predestined individuals don’t get the chance to use their “miracle” to save other special people they encounter. Peter soon meets Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay), dying of consumption, and the two fall in love during his attempted robbery of her estate. Meanwhile in the present, Peter is still alive and desperately trying to remember who he is and what he’s meant to do. He also has a flying horse with sunshine for wings, which is pretty cool.
“Everything is connected by light.”
As I said, lovey-dovey, everything is light, trash. The film tries to make everything seem whimsical and innocent, but it just comes across as contrived, occasionally creepy, and all too often unintentionally hilarious. Like when Pearly has a vision and draws a crude picture in blood of the back of a redhead’s head. His thugs proceed to use that image to track down Beverly within minutes. This becomes even funnier when we learn that Beverly wasn’t the right redhead to begin with. The film is filled with dumb moments like this in between its long bouts of uninspired fluffy dialogue. Peter talks to Beverly for three minutes and falls in love. Two days later they have sex which of course KILLS her. It’s hard to feel the heartache when you can’t stop laughing at how ridiculous it all is.
Farrell and Findlay aren’t terrible. He’s his usual charming self, perfectly placed in this story that has little else going for it. Crowe is over the top and rather entertaining, with one of the worst Irish accents on record. William Hurt comes and goes, as usual. Kevin Durand and Kevin Corrigan both show up for bit parts that completely waste their talent. Will Smith plays the Devil in two of the film’s more baffling scenes. “Winter’s Tale” is just chalk full of so many odd choices and bad calls; it’s hard to see what the filmmaker thought he was doing. The only parts of the film I found myself invested in concerned the flying horse because he was badass. At one point he single-hoofedly takes out most of the villains in one fell swoop. He’s like Pegasus with attitude.
“Can you love someone so much that they can’t die?”
“Winter’s Tale” isn’t the worst attempt to cash in on Valentine’s Day weekend with some light, fluffy trash. But that’s not exactly a great endorsement. The film has nothing going for it besides two attractive leads who just barely manage to maintain a sliver of chemistry throughout. Once the movie loses that, it’s nothing but weird special effects and bad accents.