With supernatural elements that bring the classic good vs. evil story to the screen and an impressive cast, Winter’s Tale should have been a great film. Instead, the movie is weighed down by a confusing plot that doesn’t live up to expectation, a lot of overacting, and a very slow moving pace.
With that said, the movie does have plenty of charm and a classical feel that makes it entertaining to watch. If you are a romantic at heart, you will love this film. If you question for any reason the strange entity of true love, then this movie is probably not for you.
Winter’s Tale is a story about magic and demise. It spans many years, starting at the turn of the 1900s and spanning to modern times. It is based on the novel of the same name (which I will admit I have not read). Colin Farrell takes on the role of the film’s hero and struggles through most of the picture with love lost and reclaimed. His name is Peter Lake.
Other cast members include Russell Crowe (Noah) as Pearly Soames, a demon, and Will Smith as the devil. Crowe plays the henchman of the devil and he is given the task of stopping Peter Lake’s ability to do good and ultimately perform a “miracle”. Will Smith is excellently conceived as the devil but I would have liked to have seen more scenes with him. It is almost a glorified cameo by Smith.
Despite the incessant planning of Soames, Peter Lake remains a redeemable character with a lot of good and love to offer the world. Lake is actually a thief, and has been raised as an orphan by a guild of thieves in this turn of the century New York. Despite his background, he retains a noble heart. He falls in love with an ill girl while attempting to rob her family of their possessions.
The girl, Beverly Penn, is played by Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey). She is staying in the Penn family’s New York home while the family travels to their estate in the countryside. She cannot travel as she is consumptive. However, I have never thought of consumption (tuberculosis) as such a beautiful disease. Beverly is dying but more alive and more beautiful than she rightfully should be. And of course our good hero is smitten and rightfully contrite that he was stealing from her.
The two end up in the beautiful winter countryside home and with nary a goose bump between them (she is sleeping in an open air tower in the midst of winter for reasons of her disease), they fall further and further into the fray of a doomed love. Add the schemes of that pesky demon, Soames, and the chance for a miracle of magic seem very far-fetched.
However, the little sister, Willa, played by McKayla Twiggs (Orange is the New Black), believes in fairy tales, magic, and miracles. She believes that Peter can save her sister. The spell that needs to be done is that he needs to kiss her with true love’s kiss and she will be healed.
In a strange twist of real life, it doesn’t work. As not to spoil the twists and turns of this romantic tale, I can’t really tell you anything further except that is about half-way through the movie. Peter continues to live until our modern day time, but his memory is sketchy. He wonders about modern day New York and tries to piece together what has happened to him. He meets a single mother, Virginia, played by Jennifer Connelly, and her very ill daughter, Abby, played by Ripley Sobo.
He also meets Willa as an old lady and I was busy counting on my fingers wondering if she really could be alive and exactly how old she would be (my best estimate was about 110!). All of these characters play a part in solving the mystery that unfolds in the last half of the movie.
Meanwhile, the audience is confused as Peter (I know I was), but it all comes together rather nicely, if you don’t think about it too hard. It’s not time travel, so the bloopers manifest themselves in cynical people and not in the logistics of sci-fi.
I thoroughly enjoyed Farrell’s performance. He combines the two halves of the character (thief and romantic hero) into something believable and likeable. I applauded every step he took and wanted it to end well for him. In all honestly, I would say Farrell’s performance is the main reason to start watching and keep watching.
The same cannot be said for Crowe. The talented actor snarls through most of the film and attempts some accent that just makes his lines hard to understand. It is clear he is trying to play some kind of mob boss type of character, but many times he comes across as more comical than threatening. This style of play would work in a film like Stardust, but seems misplaced in Winter’s Tale – where Crowe was supposed to be truly evil. Smith manages to capture a sense of dread and evil with his performance. The actor carries himself in a way that makes him both likeable (thanks to Smith’s natural screen charisma) and dangerous (at times he reminded me on Robert DeNiro in 1987’s Angel Heart). It would have been interesting to see the character in an expanded role.
Definitely a “chick flick,” Winter’s Tale manages to be an entertaining fairy tale with some beautiful visuals. The film gets weighed down by some of the acting and pacing, but fans of the genre will find plenty to enjoy.