Winter’s Tale

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1895, a young immigrant couple is refused entry into Manhattan because they have consumption. When their infant son is not allowed entry to the country without them, the couple place him in a model sailboat named “City of Justice,” in which the baby floats to the New York City shoreline.

In 1916, the baby boy has grown up to become Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), a thief raised by a supernatural demon posing as the gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). Peter is marked for death when he decides to leave Pearly’s gang. In a confrontation, he is rescued by a mysterious (winged at times) white horse, his guardian angel. Although Peter hopes to move to Florida and come back in the summer, the horse encourages him to steal from one last mansion. The mansion is the home where Beverly Penn lives, a young woman dying of consumption, whose fever is so high she sleeps outside in a tent in the winter cold. While her publisher father Isaac, and younger sister Willa, are not home, Beverly discovers Peter Lake preparing to rob the house. When Peter assures her that he no longer wishes to commit robbery, Beverly offers to make him a cup of tea. They tell each other their stories and fall in love.

Pearly orders his men to Beverly’s home, believing that saving her is Peter’s “miracle” and spiritual destiny and that he can destroy Peter by preventing it. Peter rescues Beverly from being knifed by Pearly, and they escape to the Lake of the Coheeries, where Pearly, who is supernaturally limited to the five boroughs of New York, cannot follow. Peter meets Beverly’s family at their summer home and wins their respect. While on a walk, Beverly explains to Peter that everyone is born with a miracle inside, where they are ultimately destined to become stars when they die.

Pearly asks the devil, Lucifer (Will Smith), for access to the lake home, but his request is denied. Instead, Pearly, who refers to himself as a Knight among Lucifer’s angels, calls in a debt owed to him by another of Lucifer’s angels. At a ball, a man poisons Beverly’s drink. When Peter and Beverly return home from the ball, Peter watches the shadows she casts upon the sides of her lighted tent, joins her, and the two make love. Her pulse racing ever faster due to the poison her heart, she dies.

After the funeral, as Peter and his mysterious white Horse return to the city, Pearly and his men surround them on the Brooklyn Bridge. To save its life, Peter orders his mysterious winged Horse to fly away, and Pearly gives Peter five vicious head-butts, pushing him off the bridge. Peter miraculously survives but wanders around the city with amnesia for a century, drawing chalk art of a red-headed girl on the pavements.

In 2014, the century old, but not physically aged, Peter bumps into a girl named Abby and meets her mother, Virginia Gamely. He rediscovers the brass name plate of the “City of Justice,” the toy sailboat his parents placed him in. Peter then discovers the Theatre of the Coheeries, founded by Isaac who has dedicated it to Beverly. He goes to the Isaac Penn Reading Room where Virginia works, and she helps him get his memory back using historical photographs archived at the library. While there, he meets Beverly’s now elderly sister Willa (Eva Marie Saint), who is the boss of Virginia’s newspaper. Abby has a seizure, revealing that she has cancer. Realizing that Abby, who is wearing a red scarf (like his sketches) and has red hair, not Beverly, is his “miracle” and spiritual destiny, Peter convinces Virginia that he can save Abby.

When Pearly learns that Peter is still alive and with Virginia, he is so enraged that he gives up his immortality for a chance to destroy him. Pearly and his men arrive at Virginia’s apartment, causing Peter and Virginia to flee to the rooftop with Abby. The mysterious winged horse flies them to the Lake of the Coheeries, but Pearly, now mortal, can pursue Peter beyond the Five Burroughs. After Horse dispatches Pearly’s men by crashing the ice so they all drown, Peter and Pearly engage in a fistfight and Peter stabs Pearly with the name plate from the “City of Justice.” Pearly turns to snow, and Peter is able to save Abby on the princess bed after his tear falls on her.

After visiting Beverly’s grave one last time, Peter mounts the horse to be carried away to the stars


Sunday, I was surfing YouTube and across a few “worst of 2014” lists. Winter’s Tale was one most of those lists, but still looked interesting to me. Just like a curious cat, I had to see and hope I haven’t made a huge mistake.

What is this about?

Mark Helprin’s novel provides the basis for this film starring Colin Farrell as a thief who breaks into an ill girl’s home and then falls for her. As the action shifts between past and present, the burglar also acquires a flying-horse guardian angel.

What did I like?

Eat Crowe. Russell Crowe is not an actor that I will go out of my way to see. The guy just doesn’t impress me, I’m sorry. However, it is nice to see that the guy is getting a bit of a career resurgence. There was a time where he sort of fell off the radar. I think that was after a recording of him having some sort of meltdown, though. Also, it appears that Crowe is getting back into shape and not letting “age weight” take over.

Feelings. Much has been made of me and my lack of feelings and emotions. Hey, I’m proud of the “giant black hole where I should have a heart”, as it doesn’t cloud my judgment, theoretically. That being said, I can tell when something is supposed to be all about the “feels”, and this picture seems to scream that it wants you to turn into a ball of tears after at least 3 or 4 scenes, not to mention all the romantic elements. While this is not the kind of thing I go for, there is audience out there for it, and this film appeals to them implicitly.

Fantasy. Time travel. Flying horses. Angels and demons. Immortality. These are elements that appeal to me, as they fall in with the fantasy element that I am more interested in. While taking a backseat to the serious drama of the plot, these elements keep those watching that aren’t doing so for the love story, interested.

What didn’t I like?

Pick your genre. Mixing genres is something that works nine times out of ten, but when it doesn’t, boy howdy is it a flop. This film tries to mix to serious, romantic drama elements with a fantasy subplot. On their own, these elements work, but interspersed, not so much. I cannot tell you why, though. Perhaps it is because so much time is spent on the drama that the fantasy seems tacked on as a way to bring in a male audience. Maybe it is because the use of CG made it seem as if the flying horse or Will Smith as Lucifer, yes I said Will Smith as Lucifer, were nothing more than some sort of hallucination. At any rate, someone dropped the ball in blending these together, and the result is this film that doesn’t quite get a solid footing in either genre.

Saint Eva Marie. I hate to say this, but I actually thought Eva Marie Saint was dead. Who is Eva Marie Saint? Well, I know her best from North By Northwest, which might be her biggest claim to fame, but I could be wrong. This woman has to be in her 80s or 90s, which is the right age for the character, but one has to wonder what grave they dug her out from. Actually, I take that back, for the small scene she’s in, she gives a good performance, just hate that they dragged her out for a couple of scenes and then sent her back to wherever she came from.

Big names, small roles. Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe are the pro- and antagonist for this film. Both are A-list stars, I think we would all agree on, right? Well, there are a couple of other big name stars in here that have actual parts, not cameos, but leave you scratching your head as to why they are there in such a small, meaningless role. First, there is Will Smith. When was the last time he played a bad guy? The closest that I can think of is Hancock, so maybe this was just his way of testing the waters to see if people would accept him on the other side of the law (audiences will need to if that Suicide Squad flick is going to work). He has two scenes, and in one he gets mad and we see some bad CGI teeth, which again make you wonder why? The other big star is Jennifer Connelly. Her character makes sense in the grand scheme of things, but with such a small part of the film, it makes you wonder how much she liked this material, if the casting director got lucky when they called her, or if she owed someone a favor. There is no reason to cast someone as major as Connelly in this role when an up and coming actress such as Ginnifer Goodwin, for example, would have worked just as well. Maybe I’m just being nitpicky, though.

About 15 minutes into Winter’s Tale, I knew this wasn’t for me, but I was hoping something would change my mind. It didn’t, though. I will say that this doesn’t deserve to be one of the worst films of 2014, at least of the films that I saw. I would say it is teetering on the bottom half, but not down there. Final verdict? There is an audience for this film and it consists of hopeless romantics and Colin Ferrell fans. For everyone else this is a complete snoozefest. Your best bet is to avoid it, if you can.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars


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