Saturday, July 5, 2014

Winter's Tale - Review

WINTER'S TALE originally came out on Valentine's Day of this year, as counterprogramming to the usually flimsy romantic affairs attached to the date and to reach an audience seeking an adult-themed look at love. One can scan its movie poster in order to see its soap-boxing, as it mocks tripe like THE VOW for their heinous crime of using "a real story" to draw in flocks. Writer-director Akiva Goldsman, Warner Bros, and the rest of the makers thought mightily high of themselves, thinking they are the beacons of hope for the romance film genre. However, these foolish men and women who undertook the process of crafting this film did not once look inside the camera lens and see the giant black pan atop each frame of film. They also didn't see that their paychecks were bouncing all over the place and their buttocks were too tight to alleviate the problems. Shall I go on with a glass house metaphor as well? These people have created one of the most inaccessible monstrosities to be fathomed up for public viewing. Mock the movies of Rachel McAdams and Nicholas Sparks all you want, WINTER'S TALE; at least those are true blue love stories, not a series of insanely lucid sequences where the only heartaches are the ones being suffered by its audience.

Colin Farrell is miscast once again as a generic leading man, here appearing as Peter Lake, a thief on the run from NYC's top mob boss Pearly (Russell Crowe). How does he escape from his grasps? With a magic horse that can sprout ethereal wings, of course. Oh, and Crowe is a servant to Beelzebub himself, seeking to crush all miracles from happening in the Five Burroughs and keeping the skyline at night free of shining stars. Keep up with me, won't you? So, this pegasus-like creature plays Cupid for Peter, directing him to a dying rich woman named Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay). They exchange lame flirting and turgid dialogue, such as the beauty of seeing the light of objects when you are standing on Death's doormat. Pearly hates this courtship, trying with all of his might to prevent Peter from enacting his prophesied miracle involving a red-haired girl. If this means he has to headbutt Peter into the future on the Brooklyn Bridge, so be it.

Goldsman's fever dreams and repurposing of Mark Helprin's novel is never made fixed by the talented cast, largely because the polarizing screenwriter hardly gave any material to each and every one of them. He had Graham Greene, William Hurt, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Corrigan, Kevin Durand, and a very special guest star on his payroll yet they all have an average screen time of two scenes, often spouting nothing that isn't already apparent. Goldsman really loved this strategy, as the details and backgrounds of characters are barely elaborated on or detailed, in favor of more long talking scenes with the same exposition repeated over and over again: Boy loves girl; Man hates boy; People always have hope.

His failure both as a writer and director can be seen in the first five minutes of the picture, where he tries to make us believe that Farrell is somehow 21 years old. If you can't easily spot that major error, there is this recurring element that drove me into madness: Beverly is often described as suffering from the disease known as consumption, a.k.a. Tuberculosis. This term for the disease was once used because the host body would greatly experience weight loss. Unfortunately for Goldsman, this term is no longer widely known today. You can't grasp the notion of Beverly being forcibly skinny because she routinely flaunts her nude body, particularly in one moment atop a tented castle tower, squarely in the sight of Peter, who somehow climbs said structure with ease without his grappling hook. If you do understand the disease's name and connection to TB, the film dashes that away too because the only side effect shown is that the disease makes Beverly look like a walking nuclear reactor, melting snow in seconds and leaving clear hand prints on window. No blood, no coughing, nothing easier to spot.

Once the film jumps ahead in time, it collapses further into its own abyss. A newly appointed major character is introduced to Peter, yet sits on the sidelines after two short scenes with him. Eva Marie Saint pops up as a smart, working woman at the age of 108. The dialogue becomes kindergarten level ("She has cancer. The doctors said she's dying!"). Past beings reappear without any explanation. People start dying off in the strangest of ways, such as turning to ice when struck by a metal emblem. And ultimately, the final prophecy not only completely dispels the notion of this being a romance movie, but it creates multiple unexplainable questions the makers refuse to answer. This is, when it isn't making the viewer shiver in their shoes with its queasy form of a kiss.

WINTER'S TALE isn't a romantic drama, it's a future midnight movie. No beaming smile delivered by Findlay can shatter its image as a film waiting to be watched when soaked in beer or with a pipe in hand. What else would expect from a company called Weed Road Productions? Watching this movie sober is a nightmare to a person's senses, causing laughter one moment, excruciating pain the next, followed by a state of total confusion, before repeating its vicious cycle once again.


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