Like many movies I’ve seen of late, Winter’s Tale is a movie with a wonderful premise which lacks woefully in execution. It may be possible that all books can be translated into movies, but clearly we as a species have not mastered the art.
Winter’s Tale is an effort to weave an epic fantasy within the fabric of reality. It’s an idea that many have aspired to, but few have done well. An example of a film which accomplishes this effortlessly, and I would dare say perfectly, is Ever After, a brilliant and engaging immersion of the Cinderella story in history. It creates a historical fiction, but the point is that every aspect is believable as historical fact. I believe it would have been possible to create a similar environment for Winter’s Tale, but someone decided that special effects and lighting trickery were the keys to success. Will it never sink in that all you need is a good story with passionate actors to make a decent movie? Shiny distractions and whiz-bangs most often turn gold into lead.
The underlying story is a simple tale of love. Colin Farrell plays Peter Lake, an orphan cast adrift off the shores of New York City, who finds himself grown up in the mean streets of the five boroughs making his living by thievery. As fate directs, he stumbles across the consumptive heiress Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay) during an attempted burglary and she immediately becomes his heart’s captor. His love is absolute and knows but one thing: He must save her. The journey through time of Peter and the red-haired girl become his destiny, and the destiny of the film.
I immensely enjoyed Russell Crowe’s portrayal of the demonic Pearly Soames. His delivery was delightfully edgy and menacing in a way that even horror films fail to replicate. There’s some stellar dialogue in a conversation between Lake and Isaac Penn (William Hurt), just after they meet for the first time. And I will definitely not forget the enigmatic and perfectly cast cameo by–well, if you don’t know already, I shouldn’t spoil it for you.
Around these highlights, an adventure of true love is woven. Unfortunately, in an effort to create an exquisite tapestry, the fibers are shoved together too tightly and the imperfections quickly begin to stick out. When you try to fit fancy into fact, there are rules. When you break the rules, the result is clumsy, obvious and in this case, borderline laughable. This isn’t to say the movie doesn’t have good moments, or isn’t worth watching. I found the first two-thirds much more engaging than the last third. Anymore, I almost breathe a sigh of relief when a film carries itself from beginning to end. Winter’s Tale does not, which is too bad. It’s the true love story of our time that didn’t quite work out.