I liked Winter’s Tale.
And I don’t care what anybody else says!
And that’s a good thing too because, critically, Winter’s Tale has been one of the most maligned movies of 2014. It came out on Valentine’s Day, at the same time as Endless Love. And the critics absolutely hated it! For a while there, the online film community was taking bets on which one of the two Valentine’s Day releases would end up with the lowest score on Rotten Tomatoes. And, though it was a close race, Winter’s Tale actually ended up with the lower score, coming in at 13% as opposed to Endless Love‘s 15%.
That’s right — according to most mainstream film critics, Winter’s Tale was actually worse than Endless Love.
Well, those critics were wrong. That’s how I felt when I first saw Winter’s Tale and, after watching it a second time on HBO, that’s still how I feel. Winter’s Tale is not a bad movie!
(Incidentally, Winter’s Tale has a 6.2 rating over at the imdb, which would seem to indicate that I’m not the only person who knows better than Peter Travers.)
Admittedly, the plot of Winter’s Tale does not make much logical sense but that’s kind of the point. It’s a tale and tales are not about being realistic. Tales are about emotion and the whole point of listening to or telling a tale is to inspire feelings. To truly appreciate Winter’s Tale, you have to understand that this is a fairy tale that happens to be set in the most mythical of American cities, New York.
Opening in 1895 and ending in 2014, Winter’s Tale tells the story of Peter Lake (Colin Farrell). When Peter was an infant, his immigrant parents were refused entry into Manhattan because they both had tuberculosis. So, they put Peter in a toy boat and dropped him into ocean and watched as the boat slowly floated towards America.
Jump forward 21 years and Peter has grown up to be a thief, working for a gangster named Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). What few people know is that Pearly is actually a demon who regularly visits his boss, Luicfer (played by Will “Yes, that Will Smith” Smith). Pearly is immortal as long as he stays in New York City.
When Peter decides that he wants to leave Pearly’s gang, Pearly orders that Peter be killed. However, while fleeing from the rest of the gang, Peter is rescued by a flying white horse. While Peter’s first instinct is to fly the horse out of New York and spend the winter in Florida, he instead decides to rob one more mansion. (It helps that the horse literally takes him to the mansion.)
While robbing the mansion, Peter meets Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a passionate and talented pianist who is dying of tuberculosis. In what is literally a case of love at first sight, Peter forgets about robbing the mansion and instead has a cup of tea with Beverly. They discuss their lives and Beverly tells Peter that everyone has a miracle inside of them and that everyone becomes a star after dying.
Soon, Peter and Beverly are a couple and Peter even manages to win over Beverly’s suspicious father, Isaac (William Hurt). Peter and Beverly spend the winter at her family’s summer home. Peter believes that his miracle is to save Beverly. Meanwhile, an angry Pearly waits for his chance to get revenge…
Now, I will admit that there are some obvious flaws with Winter’s Tale. Russell Crowe goes totally overboard, with his accent wildly going from Australian to New Yorkish to Scottish and back again. Meanwhile, Will Smith is not necessarily a bad choice to play the devil and he actually gives a pretty good performance but it doesn’t chance the fact that, whenever he’s on screen, all you can think about is that he’s Will Smith and he’s playing the devil.
But, honestly, who cares? This is an amazingly romantic film and Farrell and Findlay have a lot of chemistry. When you see them together, you have no doubt that Peter and Beverly are meant to be together. You care about them as a characters, even if you don’t always understand everything that’s happening around them. Their love feels real and, when it comes to telling a love story, isn’t that the most important thing?
(Add to that, does any actor fall in love as convincingly as Colin Farrell?)
And the film itself is gorgeous! From the costumes to the set design to Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography, the film is just beautiful to look at. Undoubtedly, cynics would argue that the film is almost too glossy in its appearance but Winter’s Tale is not a film for cynics. It’s a film for romantics.
So, yes, I did like Winter’s Tale and I am not ashamed to admit it.