Review by Gordon Justesen
Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Eva Marie
Saint, Russell Crowe
Director: Akiva Goldsman
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 118 Minutes
Release Date: June 24, 2014
ďWhat is happening?Ē
The idea of a movie like Winterís Tale alone intrigued me very much. A fantasy romance that transpires between different time periods...sounds like something I could go for right away, and the cast is loaded with immense talent. So how did we end up with such a mess?
Iím guessing the main problem lies within how do you adapt such an extensive piece of work as the 1984 novel written by Mark Helprin. Iíve been told that the book is so epic in its scope and extensive in length. And though the film runs nearly a full two hours, it feels as though numerous important details were left out of the translation to screen.
Watching the movie, I was reminded of the great and underrated film Cloud Atlas, which covers similar themes. And though that film left many puzzled, it was given a proper length of close to three hours and therefore allowed itís complex story lines involving time and love to be told in an effective manner. Winterís Tale has individual moments of beauty and power, but the film is simply all over the place.
The movie opens in New York City near the turn of the 20th century. We follow a street thief named Peter Lake (Colin Farrell). One day, during a routine break in of a home, he comes across one of its residents, the fetching Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay). He is in love at first sight, understandably.
But Peter is currently on the run from his former employer, Pearly (Russell Crowe). He wants Peter back in the family business, or dead if he refuses. He sees this newfound love between the two as a dear threat, and vows to destroy it at all costs.
Then thereís the case of Beverly dying from a severe case of tuberculosis. Then thereís the revelation of who Pearly turns out to actually be. Then thereís the sudden leap in time when our hero plunges off a bridge into the water below only to somehow wake up in present day New York.
By now, youíre more than likely just as lost as I was while watching this movie.
The movie marks the directorial debut of Akiva Goldsman, an noted screenwriter whose credits range from the terrific (A Beautiful Mind, I, Robot, I Am Legend) to the downright deplorable (Batman & Robin, The Da Vinci Code, Lost in Space). You do get a sense of his ambition watching this movie, and that he was a passionate fan of the book. Itís my honest opinion that whether youíre a great or not-so-great screenwriter, itís simply tough to condense a book of this size into a two hour opus.
The cast does an dependable job nonetheless. Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay (whose beauty alone has me wanting to start Downton Abbey immediately) do make for a terrific on-screen couple. As for Russell Crowe, who appears to enjoy hamming it up every other movie, does deliver quite a bizarre turn as the filmís villain (with a razor sharp Irish accent, no less). And thereís even a surprise cameo from a big name star in the role of Lucifer...yes, Lucifer is included in this story as well.
Although I donít find it to be as monumentally awful as many of the nationís critics did, Winterís Tale is nonetheless a mind-boggling mess, despite being a charming romantic tale in spots. When films such as Cloud Atlas and also Darren Aronofskyís The Fountain have told similar tales in mind-bendingly incredible ways, it only makes this movieís efforts appear even more weak in the end.
This is a glowingly sharp and tremendously detailed Blu-ray presentation from Warner. I havenít yet mentioned the filmís production design and visual effects work, which are both top notch. Those elements are displayed tremendously well here. Colors are also magnificent, if anything. Ms Findlayís red hair alone is captured in a most alluring form.
Being that the movie is part fantasy, the DTS HD mix is given a nice bit to work with. In between a sweeping music score and occasional moments of action (the climatic standoff being a high point of the presentation), this is one impressive display of lossless audio. Dialogue delivery is handled well and balances nicely with the other sound elements.
Included on this Warner Blu-ray are two featurettes, ďA Timeless LoveĒ and ďCharacters of Good and EvilĒ, both of which are brief in running time and feature interviews with various cast and crew members. Also included are fourteen Deleted Scenes.
This Combo Pack release also comes equipped with a DVD copy of the movie, as well as downloadable UltraViolet copy.
Its heart is in the right place, but Winterís Tale needed to be longer and more detailed with the world it depicts. Either that, or the book itself is un-adaptable. Itís not without its qualities but it very much is an overall mess.