Friday, February 14, 2014

Winter's Tale Movie Review

Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay (r) in Winter's Tale

Star Light, Star Bright 

Colin Farrell's Peter Lake asks, 'Is it possible to love someone so completely, that they don't die?' Heavy stuff Colin; but perhaps a better question is... Could a guy like me, enjoy a movie like Akiva Goldsman's Winter's Tale? After all, it's a romantic, supernatural drama aimed at the Valentine's Day weekend crowd... with time travel, a flying horse not named Pegasus and tons (upon tons) of sentimentality. The answer might surprise you. I did; and odds are, you will too... assuming you're willing to swallow a lot (wait till you see who plays Lucifer) and/or like a good, old-fashioned love story.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: Set in a mythic New York City and spanning more than a century, "Winter's Tale" is a story of miracles, crossed destinies, and the age-old battle between good and evil. The film stars Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, and Oscar winners Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Eva Marie Saint and Russell Crowe. "Winter's Tale" also introduces young newcomers Ripley Sobo and Mckayla Twiggs (both from Broadway's "Once"). The film marks the directorial debut of Academy Award-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, who also wrote the screenplay, based on the acclaimed novel by Mark Helprin. Goldsman is also producing the film with Marc Platt, Michael Tadross and Tony Allard. The executive producers are Kerry Foster and Bruce Berman. The behind-the-scenes creative team includes five-time Oscar-nominated director of photography Caleb Deschanel, production designer Naomi Shohan, costume designer Michael Kaplan and editors Wayne Wahrman and Oscar nominee Tim Squyres. The music is composed by Oscar winner Hans Zimmer.

What’s Best: We Irish have a way of charming the pants off ya; and nobody does it better than Farrell. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's a heck of a lot more handsome than yours truly, and the rest of our fellow countrymen. Truth is, not even a bad haircut seems to slow this guy down. He's also a very underrated actor; and that sneaks up on you, especially if you're not already a fan.

Farrell's just one component of a truly impressive cast that includes four Oscar winners and the aforementioned "big surprise" as Satan himself: Boy, I really want to tell you who it is. Everyone plays their part with plenty of gusto, setting the table for the film's success. Ditto to relative newcomer Jessica Brown Findlay as the angelic Beverly Penn. For someone who's dying of Tuberculosis (the bulk of the film takes place in 1916 New York) Findlay is full of life and natural beauty: It's no wonder Peter Lake falls for her so hard-and-fast. Beverly and Peter's love isn't necessarily steaming, but rather slow-building like a fire (ironic, given the former's need for staying cool.)

Crowe is downright devilish (no, he's not Lucifer) as Irish gangster Pearly Soames, and keeps things interesting throughout the movie. His back & forth with Peter is plenty believable (you can't fake true disdain, and Pearl has it in abundance.) Closing in on 50, the former Gladiator is making a formidable transition to the next stage in his career. Who knows, he may even make a convincing Noah! He's definitely one of the 10 best actors in the business.

What’s Not: Connelly's Virginia Gamely borders on dull (the final 30-45 minutes slows down considerably) but she raises a valid question, 'How is this really possible?' It's not, and if you don't buy into the "magic," you're probably going to dislike the movie as a whole. Even I had to chuckle at some of the impossibilities; but not enough to sway my opinion.

Best Line: There are moments of levity, such as Beverly and Peter's first meeting under unusual circumstances; but they only help solidify the movie's best moment, when Beverly gives Peter an "eyeful" from several stories up... only to have Peter just "pop up" and share the following exchange. Beverly: 'If you don't make love to me right now, nobody ever will.' (All evidence to the contrary: She looks hot.) Peter" 'Then that's exactly what I'll do.' Cue laughs and inevitable smiles from the audience. Never mind how Peter got up there so fast (and I thought only his horse could jump that high.)

Take that away, and you still have Pearly's sharp observation about humans and hope, 'They pass it (hope) back & forth like the flu at a school fair.'

Overall: Beverly tells Peter, 'Aren't you the charmer,' and she's right. Winter's Tale charmed me of all people, and that's no easy feat. Maybe it's because we share the same name (Peter) or country (Ireland) but I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Or maybe I'm just becoming a softie, who... Yeah right. Let's chalk this up to magic, and hope you find some too: I'm betting you will.

Grade: B