BY ERIN TORRANCE
This past month, I’ve found myself on a bit of a winning streak if you will—that is, as a moviegoer, I’ve actually found a lot of films that I really enjoyed, one of which won my first A+ rating. While Ender’s Game seemed to break that streak, it didn’t throw it to the ground, stomp on it, shoot it, and make sure there was no pulse—that was a job best fit for Winter’s Tale.
Like Ender’s Game, Winter’s Tale is based on a novel that I, again, have not read, so it’s hard to say if this film improved upon or completely destroyed Mark Helprin’s literary version; if it’s an improvement, that doesn’t say much for the book.
Winter’s Tale seems to just shove every fantastical element, every spiritual element and even some mythological elements all into one rather vague storyline—which I’ll attempt to summarize. (No promises of brevity here…)
So the film follows Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), who’s in the thievery business under the guidance of Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). Peter has wronged Pearly by being kind to the people he’s stealing from and sparing lives that do not have to end. In response, Pearly is chasing after Peter, wanting to exact revenge on Peter’s defying his orders by taking Peter’s life. Before skipping town, Peter tries to rob one more house and ends up falling in love with the woman who’s inside, Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), who’s dying of consumption. Pearly believes Beverly is Peter’s miracle (he has guardian angels and such surrounding him), so he sets out to kill Beverly—oh but of course, at the last second, Peter rides by on his white stallion and whisks Beverly away. And then they fly to safety (the horse is magical by the way). Eventually Pearly finds a way to kill Beverly and then he tosses Peter off a bridge—he survives but it’s about 100 years later and he hasn’t grown a day older. Why? Because he’s meant to save someone else.
Going into the theatre, I was prepared to see a bad movie—most film critics felt it was an atrocity, so I lowered my expectations. The film was off to a decent start, especially when we’re introduced to Beverly. Jessica Brown Findlay as Beverly offers by far the strongest performance. There’s a scene in which Beverly is being fitted for spectacles and she describes the way she’s able to see every reflection and beam of light, suddenly understanding how everything is connected by that light. The way these connections are highlighted onscreen is gorgeous—and while I doubt the director thought of this, sitting at the very back of the theatre, I could even see how the beams of light from the film projector danced across the scene, highlighting these reflections. After seeing this scene and Findlay’s performance thus far, I thought, “Maybe the critics were stretching it a bit.”
I didn’t discount this film entirely until Russell Crowe turned into a demon when he couldn’t have owl for dinner. Actually, I’d have to say that the lowest point was when the Judge/Lucifer (Will Smith) appeared—that has to be one of the worst casting calls ever; the whole theatre laughed when he first appeared, which is hardly the intention when it comes to portraying the devil.
There are some decent moments, mostly all when Findlay is onscreen, but this film is trying too hard to be everything that it fails to be just something.