By Gary Murray
Starring Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe and Jessica Brown Findlay
Written by Akiva Goldsman
Based on the novel by Mark Helprin
Directed by Akiva Goldsman
Running time 118 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Free TV
It has become harder and harder to make a romantic movie. Almost every time one comes out, it feels even more dated than the last entry. It does not matter if they are comedy or drama, the star-crossed lovers and cloying romanticism comes across more as trite than warm. The latest to generate warm hearts in the dead of the chill season is Winter’s Tale.
The story stretches out 100 years. It starts with a couple trying to start a new life in America. They are denied entry into the US and put their infant son in a boat to make a life in the land of the free. Flash-forward a few years and that infant is a young man Peter Lake (Colin Farrell). When the audience first meets him, he is running away from Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe).
Pearly runs a gang that has some underworld and netherworld connections. He is a bad man who has sold his soul for wealth and power. Peter is saved from his beating by a horse that can jump really high. This majestic steed leads him to the house owned by the Penn’s. Inside the house is Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay). She is a red-headed firebrand who is sick with consumption. She must live outside in the cold in order to get better.
Peter sneaks into the Penn house thinking it is empty and encounters Beverly. They are instantly smitten by each other. She invites him to go to the family’s other house. They are chased by Pearly’s men and we find out that the horse is a Pegasus and can fly.
At the Penn home, the two young lovers become closer and he saves the family estate. There are bits about prophesy with a girl with red hair that will bring about Pearly’s downfall. Pearly does everything he can to stop these two from fulfilling their destiny.
The second part of the film happens in modern day. Peter is a lost man searching for something. He has no memory and knows nothing of his life before that moment. He meets Virginia (Jennifer Connelly) who is a food reporter. She helps Peter find out who he actually is and how the prophesy is not exactly what one expected. Over and over again, Virginia says what the audience is thinking, “this is unbelievable.”
This is a mess of a film. It is actually two films and neither of them works. The story is an expansive tale that is compressed into a scant two hours and the entire work seems rushed. One needs to read the 1983 novel to understand what is going on within the epic scope of this tale. The presented film feels as if major chunks are missing. The two stories that probably worked together in print do not mesh together as cinema.
Another problem with the film is the fact that everyone mumbles their lines. It becomes almost impossible to understand what Colin and Russell are saying to the point that the film needed subtitles. This low grunt was a popular way to emote in the 1950s but is irritating in modern cinema.
With a film like this, chemistry between the leads is the most important element. Winter’s Tale feels as if the two star-crossed lovers are in different films. Only in one single moment do they connect as a couple. There is little smoke and even less blaze.
The true surprise is young Jessica Brown Findlay. Her Beverly character is the brightest of bright light and is the only element of the film that works. She delivers the silly lines of Akiva Goldsman with a fire and belief that is much better than the material wants. This role should put her on the short list for female leads.
Winter’s Tale is trying to be Titanic or Somewhere in Time but fails on many aspects. It tries to have an epic scope but feels more forced than majestic. In the end, it is nothing special.
Hmmm. The movie was kind of a cluster**k but I thought they did have great chemistry. And I agree about Brown-FIndlay but Colin was pretty darned good considering he had to work with equally cheesy material. Otherwise, fair enough.
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