Monday, February 17, 2014

Winter's Tale

Winter's Tale is the story of a man who lives and loves in early 20th Century New York, and who then lives in modern-day New York without aging. it is based on the novel of the same name by Mark Helprin. As I have not read the novel, I cannot comment on how faithfully the movie adaptation might be.

I have heard the movie referred to as science fiction. IMDB lists it as drama, fantasy, mystery, and romance. I see it as a movie primarily about spirituality. Unfortunately, the sort of spiritual that it is - broadly Christian, affirmational, positing a higher purpose in life - is not something I can relate to. So the entire message of the movie generated only eye-rolls from me.

This is unfortunate, because the acting is superb. Colin Farrell is wonderful in the lead role, a thief on the run from his former handler - though Farrell is 36 and playing a man of about 20. He still looks young, but not that young. Russell Crowe is fantastic as Pearly Soames, the man hunting Farrell's Peter Lake. Jessica Brown Findlay is lovely as the love interest, Beverly Penn.

The characters themselves have problems. The story of Lake's arrival in America in unlikely at best. No one ever seriously questions his love for Penn, or hers for him, despite the wildly improbable nature of everything surrounding their circumstances. This, presumably, can be attributed to the same kind of spirituality that the entire main plot is based on, a belief in destiny.

This is quite a pretty movie, if a little bleak due to the wintry setting. Some of the camerawork is quite nice indeed, though there are several scenes with completely unnecessary shakycam. The special effects are also quite good. The supernatural effects are hardly subtle, but they integrate well into the world - they look like they belong. Special note should be made of John Freeman, the horse wrangler. That horse is fantastic even when he is not augmented by effects.

As a romance, this movie is perfectly charming. The plot hits the doomed romance note twice over, once for class and once for disease, lending a nice bit of tragedy and conflict. The relationship itself is irrational, but for me this is partially excused by Penn's odd magical fever (which is sometimes called consumption, much to my irritation, since it obviously is not).

The Pearly Soames plotline works for me too. It is a pretty straightforward good-versus-evil story carried on the strength of Crowe's deliciously evil performance. The scenes with the Judge are also thoroughly entertaining in a nicely unexpected way.

If that was all there was to the movie - star-crossed lovers mixed up with supernatural forces - I think I would have liked it. The additional of the spiritual nonsense, though, which includes the entire present-day plotline as well as the voice-over work and a few other scenes, soured the experience for me.

This is very much a movie  for which your enjoyment will depend on what you bring with you to the theater.

Performance: 4/5
Plot: 2/5
Production: 3/5
Overall: 2/5
Bechdel: Fail
Reverse-Bechdel: Pass
Mako Mori: Fail
What are these?

1. Lone Survivor
2. The Lego Movie
3. Lust For Love
4. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
5. I, Frankenstein
6. Monuments Men
7. Knights of Badassdom
8. RoboCop
9. Winter's Tale
10. The Legend of Hercules

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