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article imageReview: 'Winter's Tale' is far from heart-warming Special

By Kristal Cooper     Feb 14, 2014 in Entertainment
It's Valentine's Day so it's a given that studios are going to be rolling out their most earnest romantic slop in the hopes that couples everywhere will give in to the spirit of the day and fork over their date night money.
One of this year's offerings is some particularly high-class slop from an Oscar-winning screenwriter intent on bringing every romance novel you've ever read (or avoided) to life inside a magical, wintry New York wonderland peopled by fairy tale-inspired characters and drenched in time-spanning, death-defying passion. Unfortunately none of that entirely holiday-appropriate subject matter ever truly takes flight...even despite the existence of a winged, white angel steed.
Based on the beloved 1983 novel by Mark Helprin, Winter's Tale is a magically-minded plot jumble that begins in 1895 with two Russian immigrants (Matt Bomer and Lucy Griffiths) being turned away from Ellis Island because of the husband’s less-than-stellar health. Determined that their son should have a chance at a better life, they opt to nestle him in a model ship Moses-style, lower him into the water and send him toward the shores of big, bad New York City.
From there the film Jumps ahead to 1916 where the now grown baby, Peter Lake (Colin Farrell, playing 21 but actually 38), has issues in the form of local crime boss Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), who has magical powers and appears to be a minion of Satan. Pearly is upset because Peter used to be amongst his cabal of thieves but has opted to go his own way which is naturally cause for a death sentence. Luckily, Peter escapes via the above-mentioned convenient Pegasus which gives him just enough time to meet a beautiful, dying young woman (Jessica Brown-Findlay) and fall in love before Pearly has a chance to intervene once more.
Now, if this were a normal romance, writer/director Akiva Goldsman might have settled for focusing on the tragic, star-crossed love of Peter and the consumptive Beverly, but alas, this is a film that revels in its magical realism, its city riddled with angels and demons and a world where Will Smith is a Lucifer-like figure with a penchant for kicky, anachronistic costumes. That is, it seems perfectly reasonable that this story should also include time travel, dopily flitting through a century of wintry New York solitude to land Peter in the life of a food critic (Jennifer Connelly) with a sickly daughter.
Despite all of the its stabs at authentic-ish characters feeling authentic-ish feelings, Winter's Tale operates on a heightened level of melodrama that seems super-charged to the point of spontaneously combusting. It's also a movie that's way more concerned with being fantastical than it does making sense or having any genuine emotional heft.
To its credit, the film is achingly sincere about (superficially) exploring its grand themes of good versus evil, true love, the unfairness of death and the cruel passage of time, but thanks to Goldsman's deadpan direction and his screenplay's clear goal of tugging your heartstrings to their breaking point no matter the cost, Winter's Tale mostly just comes off as sincerely ridiculous.
Follow Kristal Cooper on Twitter @mskristalcooper
More about winter's tale, Colin farrell, jessica brown findlay, akiva goldsman, Russell crowe
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