{film} a winter’s tale that left me a bit cold

on
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Young Willa (Mckayla Twiggs) & Jessica Brown Findlay (Beverly Penn). spinning romantic tales.

The promise of an urban fantasy in director Akiva Goldsman’s Winter’s Tale (2014) was tempting. I have yet to read Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel of the same name, but I do not recall it being panned. Nor had I heard much about the critical reception of the film. I hadn’t sought it out. I figured Winter’s Tale would be an enchanting watch, I didn’t figure it for being so cloying. I spent most of the film digging around in my body for that necessary romantic bone—femur-sized preferably. I think I arrived at this film too many years too late.

The film opens with the riveting vocals of Jessica Brown Findlay (Sibyl of Downton Abbey) telling us about this belief that there is this “world behind the world where we are all connected” and how “time and distance are not what they appear to be.” Her voice is the world-builder where we have come to expect some moving and/or trending song to play over a time collapsing visual narrative (aka dumb show, theatrically speaking). I didn’t think I’d need to time the prologue, but I was thinking I should have long before the title appeared on screen. Maybe it was its lyricism that made the voice-over so lengthy and laden, or was it the necessity to situate the film’s premise.

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Colin Farrell as Peter Lake. …are you sure we shouldn’t just go now?…

Besides the title bearing the words Winter and Tale, Colin Farrell as the lead, and a white horse figuring in somewhere, this is the only other thing I knew about the film: Internet Movie Database’s proffered synopsis: which you should refrain from reading.

Set in 1916 New York, burglar Peter Lake (Farrell) falls in love with an heiress Beverly Penn (Findlay) during an attempted robbery. Unfortunately for them both, each are imperiled in their own way. He is being hunted by the convincingly evil and also ridiculously named gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). She is nearly-dead of consumption—a pulmonary disease the orphaned Peter’s immigrant parents were diagnosed with and refused entrance into New York.

It may be that in the truly magical world, Beverly is misdiagnosed with consumption, a prevalent disease at the time, because her symptoms are better suited towards her transitioning into a star—the after-life destination she is anticipating. The stars feature prominently, their lore, their connection to the universe. The film also draws from angel/demon and Native American mythologies.

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Winter’s Tale alludes to the interconnected, renaming, and shared history of every mythology in the opening. How it all plays out is the slow-reveal. By the time the tale begins to make real sense, you are near the close and understand why they had to be so mystifying—to compel you with the intrigue.  The other option is to compel you with the romance, which is the predestined sort, which may not be as compelling as the growing dread of unanticipated tragedy it could have supported better. Peter has to save Beverly somehow and how all that is to work out is the most mystifying of all.

The film is one to be patient with and of a certain humor. It has a dated feel already, and I am still in awe of how Colin Farrell can deliver the lines he does with such earnest sincerity. The awkward delivery in the film was in the editing.

A WINTER"S TALE

Winter’s Tale has a wonderful cast, great scenery…I think the offense arrives with understanding its potential to be a truly magical—what, because I think the failure is anticipating an adventure out of a standard memoir. I should check the filmographies for Lifetime network credentials. Winter’s Tale, as I understand it from the film, would make for a more interesting Indie-house attempt. Maybe someone could steampunk it—yes, let’s have a do-over.

The message of “true love gives life meaning” is a message of optimism an otherwise heartlessly harmful cultural landscape might find appealing. Only, you have to believe that the universe will still bend backwards for you, that the significant other hasn’t lost their miracle (or had it crushed) by the “agents of chaos.”

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….SPOILER…[[& of likely relevance to only those who’ve seen the film]] a conversation Sean and I had that is too hilarious not to share.  After we learn that Beverly is “the girl [his] miracle is for,” the word virginity occasionally became interchangeable w/ miracle. His virginity was going to save her, but I phooey the idea because it’s a him, not the other way ‘round. Turns out, Sean was right about the virginity-concept when she dies after losing her virginity which signifies the true love that grants him the power of reincarnation, which is really just resurrection and failure to age.

On a related note, her virginal love saves him, and he in turn saves the female child of a single mother. The world is stabilized once more.…SPOILER DONE ….

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Winter’s Tale (2014) Direction & Screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, Based on the novel Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, Produced by Goldsman, Marc E. Platt, Michael Tadross & Tony Allard; Music by Hans Zimmer & Rupert Gregson-Williams, Cinematography by Caleb Deschanel, Edited by Wayne Wahman & Tim Squyres. Production companies: Village Roadshow Pictures & Weed Road Pictures, Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures & Village Roadshow.

Starring: Colin Farrell (Peter Lake), Jessica Brown Findlay (Beverly Penn), Jennifer Connelly (Virginia Gamely), William Hurt (Isaac Penn), Maurice Jones (Cecil Mature), Mckayla Twigg (Young Willa), Eva Marie Saint (older Willa), Russell Crowe (Pearly Soames), and Will Smith (Judge).

Rated PG-13 for violence and some sensuality. Running time 118 minutes.

{images belong to Warner Bros Pictures}

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