SYNOPSIS: Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes the romantic time travel tale of Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), a turn-of-the-last century burglar who comes across the love of his life while robbing a mansion he thought was empty. Beverly Penn (Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay), the beautiful-but-doomed daughter of a wealthy newspaper tycoon, is a precocious and philosophical young woman with just months to live. He wants to save her, but first he must save himself from evil crime lord Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), a brutal man who wants Lake dead. Then, in a twist suggested by the Brothers Grimm, he finds himself thrust one hundred years into the future with only the faded memory of Beverly and a white guardian angel horse as company.
Richard: 1 ½ Stars
Mark: 2 Stars
Richard: Mark, I am not a cold-hearted man. I like love stories as much as anyone and, as a fan of Say Anything, almost well up whenever I hear Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes, but the sledgehammer romance of Winter’s Tale left me feeling bruised rather than buoyed. The mix of metaphysical romance, magic realism and demonic revenge is a strange stew that worked well in the book by Mark Helprin but seems to have lost something in the translation to the screen. I feel the sight of Colin Farrell flying above New York on a winged Pegasus is best left in the mind’s eye.
Mark: Richard, sometime in the Eighties, I was dating a girl who gave me a copy of the book, which she said was the “greatest novel of all time.” I read about a third of it, tossed it on the floor, and subsequently broke up with her. So obviously the story, with its magic/tragic, hocus/pocus view of romance isn’t for me. This is not a poorly made movie. It’s lovely to look at, has some fine acting, and has a lot of good dialogue mixed in with the bad. But Richard, there’s a magic horse in it. That horse will separate those who will be enthralled by the film from those who think it’s embarrassing hooey. Guess which group I fall into?
RC: I’m with you on the Pegasus and it is a credit to the charm of Colin Farrell and Findlay that the romantic side of the tale comes alive at all. The first meeting between Peter and Beverly, over a cup of tea, is simple, effective and bristles with starry-eyed tension. More of that and less of the magic horse and I might have bought into the story. As it was I felt like I was strapped to a chair and force-fed all the Valentine’s Day episodes of “Touched by an Angel.” What did you make of Russell Crowe? He seemed like he was having fun with his demonic gangster routine, but did it work for this movie?
MB: Yes, Crowe is one of the things in the movie that worked for me. It was the casting of his boss that was ridiculous, a preposterous cameo that threw off the already precarious balance of the film. When he came onscreen, there was no turning back from its silliness. But even if I accept the movie on its own ridiculous terms, it still has a major problem. It’s like a two act play, but the two halves don’t cleave together. The second act, which happens in present day New York, feels rushed and arbitrary. At least the first act takes some time building characters and mood. What did you think of the female lead, Jessica Brown Finlay?
RC: She’s beautiful, a little frail and doesn’t get buried by the schmaltz. I thought she was nicely cast.
MB: As was William Hurt. Always nice to see him working again.