If you have been to the movies lately or have opened Youtube a couple of times, there is no way you could have missed the trailers for Winter’s Tale. Or that it could have missed you. I’m sure it shot you right in the forehead, making you respond in the only way Valentine’s Day movies can: with a true what the heck? Winter’s Tale is a story of love and magic. We immediately start jumping back and forth in time, as proven mainly by the length of Colin Farrell’s hair. We apprehend about his past through an extended flashback that reveals how his parents were immigrants at Ellis Island and were deported due to illness. However, they don’t want to bring baby Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) back with them so they do the only logical thing: put him in a little boat and abandon him, modern Moses style, to drift ashore towards his lower Manhattan life.
Years afterwards, Peter Lake has become a skilled thief who has managed to enrage his ex-boss (Russell Crowe). In the process of running away from a painful death, he is saved by a white horse, which is actually a good spirit that descends on Earth only when a miracle is about to happen. This “horse” has beautiful light-made wings and is endowed with magical powers. My only question, why not make it a unicorn? The disappointment is palpable. Unfortunately-just-a-horse guides Peter to the house of a rich but extremely sick young lady, Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay of Downtown Abby fame). They fall irreversibly in love after he decides not to burglarize her father’s estate – she wasn’t creeped out by his presence anyway – and run away together from Russell Crowe, who has a weird scar on his face and some troubles with diction due to an accent straight out of a leprechaun cartoon; in other words, audiences won’t even focus on his character enough to remember his name.
But anyway, they run away and meet her family, who absolutely adore the handsome crook as we are shown through an awkward conversation between him and Beverly’s father, which includes lines such as: “Do you understand?” “No.” and “Orphans don’t know vanity”, to which the audience can only answer: “ever heard of Harry Potter?” Beverly, however, is a victim of a conspiracy because the mafia believes that the miracle that has been prophesized is for her. Meanwhile, we learn that the mafia is actually made of demons who answer to Lucifer himself. Too bad all these plot twists cannot really impress the viewers because they are laughing too hard at the hilarious revelation of Lucifer’s identity: Will Smith in a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt! Now, even if we decide to ignore the implications of the devil having Jimi’s face on his chest in 1916… we still can’t. Hendrix of course wasn’t born yet. So is he in Hell already? Or maybe Lucifer just loves him so much he travels to Woodstock and back every now and then and shops for T-shirts. He can right? He is Will Smith after all! A Will Smith who isn’t even trying to act and looks profoundly satisfied with being finally able to boss around Russell Crowe.
Pearly Soames’s (Crowe) plan succeeds and Beverly is eventually murdered by a traitor angel. But fear not, Valentine’s Day moviegoers, as the preachy and mystical voice over tells us, love is a force that can defeat death and time. Sadly, the death of the female protagonist isn’t as heartbreaking for us, since we have been given more chances to laugh at her than to get attached. In reality, Beverly is a character so poorly developed and constructed –I have never seen a 21 year-old receiving her first kiss by Colin Farrell more confidently- that nobody would care about her regardless. Still, Colin Farrell’s hair suddenly grows and he is whisked to 2014 without any conscious memory of the past.
Fate is on his side, of course, and he meets a young mother (Jennifer Connolly) who happens to be a reporter who can help him do some research on the Penn family as his memory slowly-too-quickly returns. Now, we all like our movie love stories to have incredible coincidences, but Winter’s Tale just crosses the line. Especially when we discover that the reporter’s daughter is a redhead young little girl with cancer and the “new Beverly”, or the person for whom the miracle was meant in the first place or something like that, everybody is utterly confused at this point.
The demon played by Russell Crowe, who has always survived all these years, sees the miracle coming and immediately starts chasing the hopeful trio, who want to hide in the Penn mason. The good news is that the flying horse is back and it might be everybody’s favorite character. We are now at the very end of the film and director Akiva Goldsman decides to sprinkle some slow motion here and there, just to make sure we understand it’s a drama, as the movie reaches a terribly anti-climatic ending.
As the lights go up, everybody is baffled that Warner Bros could produce something like Winter’s Tale. The screenplay at least is casting a faint light of hope on every film major’s life: if this movie made it, co can yours! The same can’t be said for the lives of many happy couples around the country that will sit down in theatres tonight and suffer. Guys, do yourselves a favor and stick to red roses this year
Review by Giulia Rho