One freezing winter's night, Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), orphan and master-mechanic, attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side of New York. He thinks the house is empty, but Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), the daughter of the house who is dying - is home.
Review by Louise Keller:
Problematic from the outset, this melodrama about destiny, chance and connections trips over its own self importance as it canvasses its ludicrous plot involving angels and demons, twinkling stars, true love and a magical white horse that flies. Based on Mark Helprin's novel, Akiva Goldman's film requires a galactic leap of faith to not only keep abreast of the storyline that defies time, but to remotely believe in the preposterous premise.
Two terminally ill girls, a small time thief with a knack for fixing things and a demon of a crime boss who answers to Lucifer are the main characters of the tale that tries to relay its central notion that we are all travellers on a journey seeking that one special person. There is Colin Farrell with statement hair; Russell Crowe with a facial scar, mannerisms and thuggish persona; Will Smith righteous as Lucifer, wearing diamante earrings. Shakespeare's tale this is not.
The 'what if' scenario presented by solemn voice over and imagery of the universe and stars is followed by a sequence in which we learn the back story of Colin Farrell's Peter Lake, before the action commences in 1916 New York. Production design is excellent and acting honours go to the beautiful white horse that miraculously appears and rescues Peter from Pearly Soames' (Crowe) deadly clutches and transports him to the home of beautiful red-head Beverly Penn (Jessica Findlay, lovely), who is dying of consumption. She plays Brahms beautifully on the piano, offers Peter tea and declares she has never been kissed, when she discovers the devastatingly handsome Farrell (as Peter) robbing her father's house.
Special mention should be made of Farrell's hair (buzz cut with long bangs), which grabs our attention in both time frames as it falls like a curtain at perfect angles. It upstages the sweet romance between Peter and Beverly, as he scoops her up onto the white horse as her Prince Charming and finds his way to her upstairs tent boudoir to love her in the manner to which she desires. Mckayla Twiggs is sweet as Beverly's young sister Willa, while William Hurt does the best he can in the limited role of Beverly's concerned father.
Crowe, beefy in mean-mode with an intense characterisation, looks as though he should be in another movie with the likes of Ray Winstone, while the 100 year time jump in which Farrell gets amnesia but manages not to age at all, requires a monumental leap of faith. The introduction of teary mum (Jennifer Connelly) and her little girl (Ripley Sobo) who is dying of cancer feels like a soapie but the final dramatic sequences in the snowy, icy setting are certainly picturesque. Undemanding audiences wanting an ethereal fantasy experience with romantic notions may be more forgiving.
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WINTER'S TALE (M)
CAST: Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Will Smith, Matt Bonner, Kevin Durand, William Hurt, Lucy Griffiths, Eva Marie Saint,
PRODUCER: Akiva Goldsman, Marc Platt, Michael Tadross
DIRECTOR: Akiva Goldsman
SCRIPT: Akiva Goldsman (novel by Mark Helprin)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Caleb Deschanel
EDITOR: Tim Squyers, Wayne Wahrman
MUSIC: Rupert Gregson-Williams, Hans Zimmer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Naomi Shohan
RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 13, 2014