"Don't know who's more foolish; The horse who won't listen to his master or the master who listens to his horse."
I don't know what was more foolish; the fact that I watched this film knowing it was going to be terrible, or the fact that I'm actually spending time on reviewing it. Considering that the tagline of the film claims "This is not a true story. This is true love," one might expect at least for the romantic elements to be emotionally gripping, but the chemistry between the lead actors isn't even there. This is basically your average chick flick mixed with some classical fairytale elements, and unfortunately neither of them worked. Winter's Tale requires you to stretch your imagination way too far and it just didn't work for me. This is yet another example of a film based on a beloved novel that doesn't quite translate well on the big screen. Since I never had read the book I kind of felt lost trying to understand who the characters were; the story simply didn't translate well on film. This is Akiva Goldsman's first feature film as a director and he disappoints. I've enjoyed some of his screenplays in the past (I Am Legend, A Beautiful Mind, and Cinderella Man), but Winter's Tale is simply poorly directed. Fans of schmaltzy and romantic fairytales might enjoy this, but it definitely doesn't bring anything original or fresh to the genre.
Adapted from Mark Helprin's novel of the same name, Akiva Goldsman's film takes place in freezing New York City during the early 1900's. The premise is very strange and they never take time to explain the sort of mystical world in which the film is set. We are first introduced to Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) as he is trying to escape from the evil Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), who wants him dead. Apparently Pearly had raised Peter and taught him how to become a great thief, but now Peter wants out. He barely survives from Pearly and his men thanks to a mystical white horse that helps him escape by performing a miraculous jump. Before leaving the city, Peter decides to burglarize a couple homes and in one of those homes he is discovered by the oldest daughter, Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay from Downtown Abby). When he sees her, he instantly falls in love with her. She tells him she suffers from a severe illness and that she only has a few months left. Peter believes he is destined to use his one miracle to save her, but Pearly will do everything in his power to stop Peter from achieving his miracle and thus restoring hope in humanity. Beverly's father, Isaac (William Hurt), approves of his daughter's relationship, but time isn't on their side.
Winter's Tale also counts with the talented Jennifer Connelly and Will Smith, but there isn't much they can do with their characters. The chemistry between Farrell and Brown Findlay is practically nonexistent. Russell Crowe plays a decent villain, although it's hard to understand what he is saying. Well, actually it's hard to make sense of the actual story as well. The blending of the fantastic elements with the romance doesn't work at all and the film tries to be ambitious but it doesn't deliver anything unique. The score by Hans Zimmer is beautiful, but the way they use it in this film is way too manipulative. Since neither the characters nor the story manage to engage the audience, they try to do so by using the emotional score. It's a film you might enjoy more by simply closing your eyes and listening to the score rather than watching the action unfold. It's a shame because a talented ensemble cast is wasted once again for a film that has nothing to offer.