A New York Winter’s Tale

Directed by Akiva Goldsman
Starring Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Graham Greene and Will Smith
In UK Cinemas February 21st, 2014

by Ella Jean

Such a gorgeous cast, such beautiful cinematography, such a horribly told story.  A New York Winter’s Tale sets out to be a romantic fairy tale that spans a century. The idea seems basic but quickly becomes confusing. There’s a hero, a damsel, and a villain that are eternal… Sort of.

Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is an orphan raised in New York at the start of the 20th century. His father figure is Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe) a psycho Irish gangster who is also a demon… I think. Peter, a thief, is running away from Pearly, who is also his boss, because of a (muddily explained) vendetta. On his last loot before leaving town, after finding a horse with magical powers, he meets Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay). She is dying, of course. They fall in love at first pun. Peter goes off to learn about how the horse (named “Horse”) is his spirit animal. How? He knows a First Nations guy, of course! In his only scene, Canadian actor Graham Greene (Dances With Wolves) pops up to give advice as (no joke) “Humpstone John”. At this point one starts to wonder what’s the worst thievery Peter’s committing; stealing your time, your money or your investment in the story.

The creators of this film fail in their subtlety as much as they do in explaining the logistics of this ill conceived fantasy world. It is a massive mess of suspension of disbelief. We can just about believe in a flying horse and immortality, but we cannot believe in love based on one conversation over tea and many cheesy lines about life and soul mates. Ick.

When one sets out to write a screenplay based on a novel, they are faced with two massive sand traps of potentially disappointing their audience. Failure one: they could revamp the tale too much, straying from the core theme that is created in the original story. Failure two: they try to stay as true as possible to the details of the original story but fail to bring it to shining cinematic brilliance with magical pixies, big monsters, flying dragons and a cohesive love story in under two hours.

This movie reeks of the latter while still executing the former. There is just too much to this fairy tale to have it make sense, which subsequently makes it lose its point entirely. One minute we think we are watching a romance set in a specific period, the next it turns science fiction.  At one point, Will Smith pops up as time lord judge Lucifer in a scene I can barely remember because I was too busy focusing on the Jimi Hendrix t-shirt he was wearing under his gothic garb. Anachronisms require a teeny bit of explanation.

Unfortunately, the eternal future does not look good for Jessica Brown Findlay. Most of the time she’s fun and free like those curly red locks of hers, but the 12A sex scene where Beverly loses her virginity may wreck her career as it subjects the audience to more discomfort than a lost hymen.

Sad to see a movie with such a notable cast and beautiful setting fail to charm in the slightest. All in all A New York Winter’s Tale falls harder than a flying horse out of the sky.

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