I never understand what goes through writers minds when they choose to omit so much detail when adapting a story. There’s a reason that something works in a novel and if you can transfer that to the screen, it may be even better. Whether someone is aware of the original source material or not, including important details usually makes for a film that fans of the novel and newcomers can appreciate. However, when you choose to throw great source material to the side and try something new, you’re putting your whole film at risk and more often than not, that decision ends up hurting the film.
Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is an expert thief living in two places in time. In the first time, he’s recently dissociated himself with his crime boss, Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), and is on the run from evil henchmen trying to kill him. As he’s about to be cornered and captured, a beautiful white horse appears and beckons him to ride. Magically, the horse leaps over the henchmen and takes Peter to safety. Peter learns that this horse is a spiritual guide and that it’s a sign that he will provide a miracle for someone. That someone, maybe be Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a dying, redheaded young woman whom Peter tries to steal from.
As he gets to know Beverly, he falls instantly in love with her and feels like he’s known her forever. As the two spend time together, Peter believes that his miracle is for her and he needs to save her. Unfortunately for Soames, a demon in hiding, that can’t happen and Soames goes to Lucifer (Will Smith) to set things straight. In this magical world where the deceased become stars, Peter also exists in the future where he only remembers fragments of his past. As he wanders aimlessly, he runs into Virginia Gamely (Jennifer Connelly) and her daughter, Abby (Ripley Sobo).
Winter’s Tale is one of the least romantic Valentine’s Day movies that I’ve ever seen. There’s some flirting and love here and there, but there’s also a lot of violence and weird sequences that may startle the audience. As a novel, I’ve been told that all the fantastical wonderment works perfectly fine. However, in a movie, they don’t soar like the horse’s cheesy looking wings. Instead, they fall flat and it’s incredibly hard not to burst out in laughter.
Colin Farrell really tries his best in this film and it’s an admirable try. The way he looks at Findlay and talks with her seems real and his love for her is somewhat real enough to buy. That Irish accent of his is what saves him in the end, especially because his odd, floppy hair is doing him no favors. The chemistry between Farrell and Findlay is pretty great and their flirting is enjoyable to watch. They’re very gentle with one another and most of the emotion is within their eyes and the inflections in their voice.
Russell Crowe has been making a lot of bad decisions lately. I’m one of the few who enjoyed him in Les Miserables and he’s obviously a talented guy (when he wants to be). Now, he’s playing a demon with a face that opens up and he can scratch people. He’s got a vendetta against Farrell and he’s willing to do a lot (or so he says) to see him dead. Instead, Crowe puts on a terrible accent and whines about not being able to stop Farrell. Rather than hunting Farrell himself, Crowe has other people do it and gets mad when they fail. His character is so odd and you never really understand why he wants Farrell dead. He’s just a mess and I absolutely despised his character.
For a movie that’s supposed to be about light and fantasy, this film looks terrible. The attempted animation and visual effects look like something you’d expect from a SyFy original movie. Worse than the J.J. Abrams-esque lens flares, was the white horse turned Pegasus. Rather than making elegant white wings, the horse grew imaginary butterfly like wings that were every color of the rainbow. The horse looked ridiculous and it got even worse when it entered flying mode. All of the snow looked fake and the CGI was not working at all. Everything needed some fine-tuning, or just needed to be cut to save the film (but that wouldn’t have saved it either).
Rather than letting the audience try to understand what the premise of this film is, there are supporting characters who spell it out for you in the name of convenience. That being said, I still had very little idea what was going on during the entire film. There’s a clear battle between Heaven and Hell (as evidenced by Will Smith) being the Devil) and the demons and angels are in a constant war over people’s souls. If you die well, you become a sparkly star. Every person also has a miracle in them to save someone. That’s about all I got and then Farrell hopped around time, unsure of what he was doing in the movie. This is a hard film to get invested in and it’s a harder one to follow.
I chose to go see Winter’s Tale because, of the three Valentine’s Day releases this coming Friday, it seemed like the most mediocre and I thought it could be good. Farrell and Crown are appealing actors and everyone loves a bit of magic, but there is sadly no magic in this film. I couldn’t get over the cheesiness and I wanted to be anywhere else while watching it. I’ve been told that the novel executes the fantasy well, but not much works in the film. I was really disappointed in this film and it doesn’t even feel like a “romantic” film. Look elsewhere if you want to go see a Valentine’s Day movie.
Winter’s Tale Trailer