Tag Archives: colin farrell

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


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.

winter's tale colin farrell

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.


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.


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.”



….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 ….



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}

crazy heart

Yes, there really is no excuse that it has taken this long to see Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart (2009). I was, of course, intrigued by the cast and all the raving in 2009. Between money and mood, I kept setting it aside. I am glad to have rectified the situation. If you have yet to see Crazy Heart, I strongly suggest you do the same.

Crazy Heart, written and directed by Scott Cooper, is a small movie perfectly scaled to the big performance at its center. It offers some picturesque views of out-of-the-way parts of the American West, but the dominant feature of its landscape is Bad Blake, a wayward, aging country singer played by Jeff Bridges.” ~A.O. Scott (NY Times Review “A Country Crooner Whose Flight Is Now Free Fall.”)

Bad Blake appears to be on his last legs, an old, multiply divorced drunkard playing bowling alleys and small, out-of-the-way venues, staying in seedy motel rooms, driving himself from one gig to the next in an old truck. He is listed amongst the remembered, and is seen, industry-wise, as a detriment do shows and record with. He’s of the old guard of hard-living rebellious country western musicians. Blake meets a young journalist Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who inspires him in more than a few ways and he is set upon a path of healing.

Drinking, cheating, love gone wrong — a lot of country music expresses the weary stoicism of self-inflicted defeat. Loss and abjection are two of the chords that define the genre. A third is redemption, which has also been a theme of modest, regionally inflected American independent cinema for quite some time. So even before Maggie Gyllenhaal shows up as Jean, a New Mexico journalist with a cute young son and some disappointments of her own, you can be pretty sure that you’re in for yet another drama of second chances and late-breaking epiphanies.~A.O. Scott

The story is refreshingly untidy. The romantic relationship between Bad and Jean is doomed, reconciliation with a son doesn’t look promising either, and his dying career is taking a major hit. He is tired of the road. He doesn’t care for the newest face of country music. His alcoholism isn’t remotely pretty. There is nothing glamorous to be drawn from his lifestyle, his life as gritty and real as his lyrics.

You will hear about Colin Farrell’s character Tommy Sweet long before you meet him. Bad Blake was his mentor and they recorded duets, but now it is Tommy’s turn in the sun and it’s left a bitter taste in Blake’s mouth. You begin to understand that Bad Blake is the singer/songwriter and Tommy Sweet is the performer. And while the criticism isn’t that overt, it is present. Blake and the film both do not want to talk about it, refusing Jean’s queries as to his opinions about the current industry and Tommy Sweet.

Still, there is the question about what inspires one’s Art. Blake’s lifestyle generates all kinds of material, and he draws inspiration like air into his worn lungs. And this ability to compose true country lyrics and sounds is a commodity. The industry and Tommy are eager for this resource. Country music is all about sincerity, after all. right? I know Crazy Heart is.

Roger Ebert observes in his review that “this is a rare story that knows people don’t always forget those who helped them on the way up.” This is true as Tommy Sweet determinedly fights on his mentor’s behalf. Nor does Blake disregard his predecessors, the long-time friendship with Wayne (Robert Duvall), or his beautiful but broken time with Jean. The impact of those people in their lives is felt, fully acknowledged and never without debt, nor is it capable of being separated from one’s art anymore than it is able to be separated from one’s future.



Jeff Bridges sings, having been coached, and he is magnificently credible. He is reliably brilliant. You truly forget he is an actor Jeff Bridges for the space of the film. Colin Farrell sings as well, and all I could think when he was talking and singing was where did he put that accent of his, and where was he keeping his arrogance? The cast stays small and is wonderfully played by all concerned. Even Jean’s son is so damn sweet and casual.

The camera isn’t interested in looking away from the degradation behind the grandeur that is a well-crafted work of art; in fact, it anticipates it. Where a fall may seem inevitable, the camera is waiting; which will not leave the film with a shiny red bow. It cannot, must not, subvert the realism it works so hard to capture (without the grainy, shaky documentary technique—bless them). That the camera rests at a distance at the end, as Blake and Jean converse, is not only to round out the film with the vista to rival the opening of the film. It seems to be unsure as to what comes next, and hope lives in those spaces.

Even if you are not a fan of country music (early or late), Crazy Heart will have a few things to interest you. There is a question of authenticity, the self-destructive reach of Art and loneliness, the changing and unchanging faces of culture and its humanity. And there is the acting. That most (if not every) review begins with Jeff Bridges presence and performance in the film is completely justified after viewing. He alone is worth the 112 running minutes of your time. But I think you will find more. Redemption doesn’t come easy in this film, but it is there.


Crazy Heart (2009)

Directed and Written  by Scott Cooper

Based on Crazy Heart by Thomas Cobb

Produced by Robert Duvall, Rob Carliner, Judy Cairo, T-Bone Burnett, Jeff Bridges (executive), Michael A. Simpson (executive), Eric Brenner (executive), Leslie Belzberg (executive)

Starring Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall

Music by Stephen Bruton, T-Bone Burnett, Ryan Bingham

Cinematography Barry Markowitz

Editing by John Axelrad

Running Time: 112 minutes

Rated R

Wiki page. IMDb page.

A.O. Scott’s NY Times Review. Roger Ebert’s Review



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