Winter's Tale gets lost in time
Starring Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay. Rated PG. Now playing
What does an epic mess look like? Start with winged white horses, angels and demons, and endless talk about spirit guides and the stars in the sky. Add Colin Farrell in a haircut that would give Javier Bardem a case of the giggles, muttering sweet nothings like, “I feel like I’ve known her for a tousand years.” Throw in Jessica Brown Findlay as a consumptive, frail, but eccentrically ginger-headed damsel and Russell Crowe with a Lucky Charms-grade Irish accent.
The metaphorical, magic-realist fantasy that made Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel of the same name a beloved hit becomes an off-putting mix of time-travelling mush and digitally-generated kitsch in screenwriter Akiva Goldsman’s debut as a director. Goldsman does not bring the requisite wonder here, hacking out huge swaths of the once 700-page story and adding at least one random character: Will Smith as a cellar-dwelling Lucifer in a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt. (Don’t ask.)
Farrell musters as much twinkle as he can as Peter Lake, the thief who was raised on the early-20th-century streets of a semimythic New York. But because Goldsman has removed so much back story, we have no idea why he’s being chased so relentlessly by Crowe’s supernatural baddie, the gang leader Pearly Soames, his former mentor. Goldsman prefers to emphasize the story’s romantic plot, highlighting the meeting between Findlay’s wealthy but wasting-away Beverly Penn and Farrell’s Lake, when she catches him robbing her house and immediately goes goo-goo–eyed. Sample vomit-inducing dialogue: “What’s the best thing you’ve ever stolen?” “I’m beginning to think I haven’t stolen it yet.”
To be brief, Lake whisks her away from the bad guys on a magical white horse with cheesy CGI wings, meets them in a grand confrontation, and gets transported through time to 2014 New York City, where he’s lost his memory but still searches for a mysterious redhead in the streets. Things here get painfully maudlin when he meets Jennifer Connolly as the mother of a child dying from cancer.
There’s more, much more, but not a lot of it makes sense, unless you too believe the whole universe is connected by rays of light and that everyone who dies becomes a star in the sky. If you don’t, you’ll be left hoping that this tale gets lost, like Peter Lake, somewhere in time.