Kyle J. Steenblik

Enjoy a Winter’s Tale this Valentine’s Day

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Winter’s Tale is a genuinely fantastical endearing story, both heartwarming and heart wrenching, a non-traditional love story. I had few hopes; the tagline for this movie sold the wrong film. “This is not a true story, this is a love story.” While accurate, it definitely fails to capture the essence of the story, of which we seem to have a glimpse. Honestly, I’m not sure you could appropriately condense this into a single tagline, and I don’t envy the poor sod that tried to do that very thing. Perhaps it would have worked best to use one line of dialogue, “Is it possible to love someone, so completely, they simply can’t die?” That definitely feels to capture the essence of the film, if not grossly oversimplifying the story.

Winter’s Tale is enormously charming, quickly plunging the audience into a world that contains just enough mystic quality to differentiate that world from ours. Just enough plot to keep the narrative together, and just enough action to keep the narrative moving forward. For all its charm, and enchantment, this film is really just enough to keep me watching, but left me wishing for much more than I saw. I thoroughly enjoyed what was on screen, but knowing there is a fuller, richer story behind the film tempered my desire for a more complete narrative. For what screenwriter and first time director Akiva Goldsman showed of his adaptation, it would be easy to accuse him of taking a hatchet to a great novel. I am not inclined to do that. I believe he had an extraordinarily difficult task, one many screenwriters and directors have attempted. I’d say his efforts, which you can tell he genuinely labored over, are admirable, and the results are successful. What we have is a film that is entirely enjoyable, in spite of its faults, which are mostly a result of too much story for too small a teapot.

Set in a mythic New York City and spanning more than a century, “Winter’s Tale” is about miracles, crossed destinies, and the age-old battle between good and evil. The film marks the directorial debut of Academy Award®-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (“A Beautiful Mind”), and stars Colin Farrell (“Saving Mr. Banks”), Jessica Brown Findlay (TV’s “Downton Abbey”), and Academy Award® winner Russell Crowe (“Gladiator”).

Peter Lake (Farrell) is a master thief, who never expected to have his own heart stolen by the beautiful Beverly Penn (Brown Findlay). But their love is star-crossed: she burns with a deadly form of consumption, and Peter has been marked for a much more violent death by his one-time mentor, the demonic Pearly Soames (Crowe). Peter desperately tries to save his one true love, across time, against the forces of darkness, even as Pearly does everything in his power to take him down—winner take all and loser be damned. What Peter needs is a miracle, but only time will tell if he can find one.

The film marks the directorial debut of Academy Award®-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (“A Beautiful Mind”), who also wrote the screenplay, based on the acclaimed novel by Mark Helprin.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, a Weed Road/Marc Platt Production, “Winter’s Tale.” The film opens February 14, 2014, and will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures.

“Winter’s Tale” has been rated PG-13 for violence and some sensuality.

o-WINTERS-TALE-facebook This film did several things very well, and some not so well. I thought the way Goldsman handled the more fantastical elements, in a very nonchalant manner, helped keep the pace of the film on track. Without that nonchalance, the narrative would have been bogged down with exposition on the nature of the mystical nature of the world. On the down side, I feel it a bit jarring as an audience member, unfamiliar with the overall story and that universe, to quickly absorb the nature of these magical elements. I want to understand these fascinating details, but I understand they are just the window dressing to the primary focus of the story. The primary focus of the film was the love story between Peter Lake and Beverly Penn. It was a good love story, everything that a classic and fully romanticized love story should be. It was full of sap, and sincere charm, really everything that sets relationship expectations unattainably high, but it’s poetic and beautiful nonetheless. It is the type of performance that can easily be abysmal to watch, it only takes a few missteps by the actors or director. Fortunately, none of those potential missteps are present here. Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay share a highly comparable chemistry making their on-screen passion, if not entirely believable, entirely convincing. It is only not entirely believable because no real world relationship maintains the heightened levels of passion displayed, it would be too exhausting after a week. If you are not one for those sappy stories, just go with it, there is much more to enjoy here than that love story.

Winter’s Tale is a magnificent film to enjoy before sitting down to dive into the novel. It is probably less spectacular if you know what they had to cut, but should be highly enjoyable nonetheless, and is a very good film to enjoy with a significant other. 7.5 out of 10.

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