“Winter’s Tale” is one of the Valentine's day features vying for your attention this weekend.
Starring Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay — “Downton Abbey” fans will recognize her as the former Lady Sybil — as star-crossed lovers the film is first set in the early 1900s before fast-forwarding to present day.
Farrell plays Peter Lake, a thief who captures the heart of Beverly Penn (Findlay) while on the run from his former mentor Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). Lake then pops up in 2014, unaged and without an inkling of who he is, where he gets acquainted with another woman Virginia Gamely (Jennifer Connelly) while trying to sort out his identity.
By far, there's a lot going on in the nearly two-hour movie.
The first reviews for "Winter's Tale" are out today — never a good sign for a movie — and it's currently sitting at 11% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The movie is based on a hefty novel from Mark Helprin of the same name and comes from first time director Akiva Goldsman (he's written wonderful films like "A Beautiful Mind" and "Cinderella Man" and then "Batman Forever" and "Batman & Robin").
Warner Bros. spent a reported $75 million on the movie. Early estimates have the movie making $13 million over the weekend.
While figuring out which movie to see this holiday, here’s what what critics are saying about "Winter's Tale":
One of the problems with the film is the time-traveling aspect which detracts from the initial love story.
“There is an underlying plot of good versus evil; angels, demons and spirit guides drift in and out of the storyline clumsily. Then, there is the modern-day aspect, as well, which is perhaps the film’s least interesting aspect all together.”
The Hollywood Reporter (THR):
“No doubt intended as an emotionalized and commercialized embodiment of Nietzsche's Eternal Return, the time-jumping set-up is so lacking in plausible narrative underpinnings that Goldsman would have needed to somehow seduce the audience into accepting the wild leaps the story takes. Without the needed persuasion, the strong temptation is just to reject the entire premise early on, which makes for a lot of eye-rolling, exasperated sighing and wristwatch glancing during the remaining long haul.”
"The sparks between Farrell and Brown Findlay are undeniable, but “Winter’s Tale” gives us too little of their love story, opting instead to lose itself in magical mumbo-jumbo while at the same time trying to keep one foot in the real, recognizable world.”
That seems to be a shame since it sounds like a romantic movie that just got caught up in itself.
“But provided you know what you're in for, the first chunk of Winter's Tale — the romantic part, before Peter is consigned to being a boring old Jesus figure — offers some modest escapist pleasures, not least thanks to Farrell's sweet, earnest intensity and the presence of a rather spectacular flying white horse.”
“The best part of this film is the tender performance of lovers Farrell and Findlay. There are a few moments, particularly near the opening, when it feels almost as though the actors went off script and created their own magical world.”
Then there’s a random Will Smith cameo where he plays a Satan-like character.
THR: Smith suddenly sprouts dagger-sharp teeth at the climax of his worst-ever big-screen appearance.
Variety refers to him as the “Fresh Prince of Hell Air.”
Fans of the book probably won’t be happy:
“Goldsman appears to have plucked key moments and images from the book and twisted them into a familiar iconography of spiritual/sentimental kitsch — hey look, a little girl with cancer — with no regard for the delicacy with which Helprin eased the reader into his fanciful universe.”
Screencrush is especially brutal:
“’Winter's Tale' makes 'Safe Haven' look like 'The Godfather.’ It is an absurd story adapted in the most dreary way possible, with lifeless performances, dull dialogue and laughable special effects. I need to cross-reference my files, but I think it is the worst major studio release with respected actors in five years. If any of us cared about our culture at all we’d be gathering our pitchforks and storming Hollywood now.”
Despite all that, the film is visually appealing.
“Some of Winter's Tale is just flat-out pretty enough to work. Beverly and her family own a glorious fairy-tale mansion perched at the edge of a frozen lake — the scene is winter wonderland central, a confection of dazzling, sparkly whiteness. … Winter's Tale, however imperfect,is that rare beast on the movie landscape: an unapologetic romance (for the first two-thirds, anyway), with attractive stars and special effects designed to give audiences something other than the experience of watching worlds get blown up.”
“One is struck by the exceptional opulence of the New York settings (particularly the vintage ones) overseen and/or created by production designer Naomi Shohan and visual effects supervisor Richard Hollander, the great care devoted to the changing backdrops and skylines dictated by the eras, and the beauty with which it has all been photographed by Caleb Deschanel.”
From the one completely positive review for the film so far:
“I found this well-crafted piece of magical realism quite imaginative and intriguing, though I suspect fans of the book might be a bit disappointed, given how much is ordinarily lost in translation bringing any 700-page book to the big screen. A searing, supernatural exploration of the human soul suggesting not only that love is real but that miracles happen, too!”
Overall consensus: Skip.
It was never clear from any of the trailers what exactly this movie was about. “Winter’s Tale” looked like a romance that transcended time and space mixed with conflict from an outside source. Despite the star power of Russell Crowe and a potential dynamic love story between Farrell and Findlay's characters, a complex plot made this romance lose its magic.
If you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day date movie, we’re not too keen on any of the releases out this weekend, save maybe Kevin Hart’s comedy "About Last Night" which, at the least, should bring some laughs. Warner Bros.’ other release “The LEGO Movie” — which isn’t just a kiddie flick — would probably be a better alternative.
Watch the trailer:
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