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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Winter’s Tale | Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jessica Brown Findlay, Will Smith, William Hurt, Jennifer Connolly, Eva Marie Saint | Review

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3sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE Judy Thorburn

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3lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE


Winter's Tale

Destiny, miracles, eternal love, and the never ending battle between good and evil are all elements in producer/Oscar winning screenwriter Akiva Goldman's (A Beautiful Mind) supernatural romantic fantasy that he adapted from Mark Helprin's, best selling 1983 massive (750 page) novel.

The film marks the directorial debut of Goldman who appears to have taken on an ambitious project with less than spectacular results. It is an ernest effort for the first time director but his take on the story is hindered by an uneven execution.

Spanning over a century from 1895 to present day, the story follows the life of Peter Lake, who, as a baby, was sent floating, Moses style, in a tiny model of a ship towards New York harbor by his Russian immigrant parents (Matt Bomer and Lucy Griffiths) who are denied entry into America.  Fast forward to 1916 where we find a grown up Peter (Colin Farrell) on the run from his one time mentor, scarred face crime boss Pearly Soames (an over the top Russell Crowe with a heavy Irish brogue), a demon in human form working for Lucifer (an oddly cast Will Smith, wearing a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt) intent on stopping the rebellious Peter before he fulfills his true destiny.

With the help of a magnificent magical flying white horse that comes to his rescue, Peter escapes Pearly and his gang of thugs and winds up at the mansion of newspaper magnate Isaac Penn (John Hurt) where he breaks in with the intent of robbing the safe.  Instead, his attention is drawn to Penn's beautiful daughter Beverly (a luminous, Jessica Brown Findlay, of TV's Downton Abbey) who is dying of tuberculosis (then called consumption) and the two fall madly in love.

The question arises about Peter's destiny and why Pearly is hellbent on hunting down and destroying him.  Was Peter led to Beverly so that he could be her savior or is she just one factor in some unknown plan laid out in the cosmos that he is yet to fulfill?

In just one of many plot elements where audiences must suspend disbelief and logic and go with the flow, eventually Peter, who hasn't aged, winds up in present day Manhattan.

While wandering around in a state of amnesia, he encounters Virginia Gamely, (a wasted Jennifer Connolly) a food journalist, and her cancer stricken young daughter, Abby (newcomer Ripley Sobo), that play a key role in cementing his destiny.

Eva Marie Saint also makes a brief appearance as a person from Peter's past life who is now the 100+ year old Editor in Chief of a New York newspaper.

From time to time either a character or voice over narration pounds us with such existential ideas and pretentious mumbo jumbo as “We are all connected.” “Each baby born carries a miracle inside.” “What if we are all part of a great pattern which we may some day understand?” There is also talk about stars in the heavens and how the universe reaches down and helps us reach our destinies.

All that is well and good, but instead of hitting us over the head with preachy dialogue, I wanted it to unfold in a manner that linked those ideas in a cohesive, rather than muddled, way.

With so much potential that is never realized on screen, instead of loving this flick, I left the theatre liking it for the stunning photography, sets, costumes, and of course, Farrell and Findley who deliver sincere deeply convicted performances, as the handsome star crossed couple, whose love transcends time. And yes, there are some enchanting and even magical moments. For those factors, and its occasional flickers of brilliance, Goldman's well intentioned adaptation of Winter's Tale, as whole, may be a disappointment, but I wouldn't give it the cold shoulder.

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