JEANNE'S REVIEW

 

As a rule, I am not a huge fan of fantasies, especially radical ones such as "Melancholia". And, I must admit that the trailer for "Winter's Tale" does not represent the film well, at all. But having disclosed this, I still must confess that I absolutely loved "Winter's Tale". Any film with a sensational looking steed (actually two of them) can't be all bad.

 

Are there many flaws in this film --- yes, of course. One of the most profound is Russell Crowe's outrageously awful Shanty Irish accent. But, for a moment, let's forget about Crowe, who plays the dastardly demon, Pearly Soames. "Winter's Tale" is much more than strictly about good versus evil. "Winter's Take" is really about miracles, and our ability to believe in them.

 

Without getting too philosophical, one must suspend belief, a little (remember, this is a fairy tale), to enjoy this movie, which begins with a rather far-fetched plan to save an infant. If you can get past that, then you will appreciate "Winter's Tale".

 

PeterLake (Colin Farrell) is an accomplished thief in 1916 New York City. He is hounded by the nefarious Soames, who was once his mentor, and his band of cutthroats, for a betrayal which has Soames hell-bent on ending Peter's life. During one of these encounters with Soames and his minions, Peter happens upon "Horse", the gorgeous white stallion who whisks him away and saves his life.

 

While on their way out of New York to escape Soames, Peter and his new companion decide upon one last job --- breaking into an impressive mansion on Central Park, which happens to be owned by newspaper mogul Isaac Penn (William Hurt). His daughter Beverly (the lovely Jessica Brown Findlay --- Lady Sybil of "Downton Abbey" fame) is in residence and encounters Peter trying to break into the safe. As corny as it sounds, it is truly "love at first sight" --- and here, the real story of "Winter's Tale" begins.

 

David and I are well aware of the fact that this film has been getting slammed by most of the critics. I personally find that shameful, especially when recent Oscar-nominated films such as "American Hustle" are receiving such high acclaim --- and, in reality, isn't that film just another kind of a fantasy? But, I digress ---

 

Farrell and Brown Findlay have marvelous chemistry. Farrell hasn't had this meaty of a role since "In Bruges". It suits him well, and he is very, very good. Instead of the lovesick Captain John Smith from Terrence Malick's "The New World", who did nothing but gaze longingly into Pocahontas' face, as Peter, we truly believe he is in love with Beverly, and will do anything to keep her safe. Plus, who knew --- he's excellent at weeping.

 

Brown Findlay is exquisite. Not only is she beautiful, but she can act, and her genuine playfulness as the sickly Beverly comes across sincerely. The most important aspect in any romantic tale is the chemistry between the two stars --- and Brown Findlay and Farrell have that in spades. Unfortunately, Crowe is crazy over-the-top. He's been doing that a lot lately.

 

First time director and Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman adapted the novel "Winter's Tale" written by Mark Helprin. He has surrounded himself with some incredibly talented people, such as production designer Naomi Shohan, who does a wonderful job romanticizing New York, and composer Hans Zimmer, whose lovely score enhances "Winter's Tale" greatly.

 

But it is the costumes by Michael Kaplan (no relation) which really bring "Winter's Tale" to life. Crowe may be off his game, but he looks splendid in every scene, as does Brown Findlay. The clothing designs are really quite spectacular.

 

"Winter's Tale" is not for everyone. This is definitely true. But, I would gladly see it again 100 times over this Valentine weekend, than the disingenuous remake of "Robocop".

 

Opinion: See It Now!

 

DAVID'S REVIEW

 

The tagline for "Winter's Tale" tells us that it's a story of true love, and it arrives in theaters just in time for Valentine's Day. I was prepared to not like this film, but the pairing of Russell Crowe and Colin Farrell was certainly intriguing. And guess what? It's a fresh, original and beautifully acted fantasy that takes place in New York City over a span of more than 100 years.

 

The first 20 minutes, or so, give no clue of what is to follow. Crowe's character, Pearly Soames, is a ruffian, a thug whose main goal in life is to capture and kill the film's main character, PeterLake, played marvelously by Farrell. Lake is a thief in 1916 New York, primarily breaking into homes. But on one such venture, the mansion he thinks is empty is actually occupied by Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay, formerly Lady Sybil on "Downton Abbey").

 

She is the ethereally lovely daughter of the wealthy homeowner, Isaac Penn (William Hurt), and she is dying of consumption, the now-archaic name for a form of tuberculosis. As a result of her terminal illness, she must maintain a low body temperature, so she sleeps on the roof in a special tent, and walks barefoot in the snow. And of course, she and Peter fall in love at first sight.

 

I will not delve any further into the story's details because to do so would spoil the film's surprises. Based on the 1983 book by Mark Helprin, and written and directed by Akiva Goldsman (his first feature-length movie), "Winter's Tale" has elements of "Sleeping Beauty" and maybe even "Heaven Can Wait". It could be a bit too schmaltzy for some tastes. I will point out, though, that our screening audience was deadly silent for the entire movie, as it draws you in to its fable.

 

A surprise cameo by a well-known actor is small but memorable,, interacting only with Soames, and both characters feature brief, but exceptionally eerie, special effects. The wonderful Eva Marie Saint, still going strong at 89, also has a brief but pivotal role. And the music by Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams is stunningly impressive.

 

As for Farrell, it is his best ever performance. He is more than just handsome, here he is earnest, emotional and believable. To display the proper amount of grief on screen is difficult, at best, and Farrell has plenty of opportunity in "Winter's Tale" to mourn. But the film is not the tear-jerker one might think.

 

There are some areas that stretch one's imagination, as when PeterLake manages to fix any mechanical apparatus under the sun without ever having seen it before, and no instruction manual. That's alright --- after all, this IS a fantasy! And something to savor on the big screen!

 

Opinion: See It Now!