Director: Akiva Goldsman
Studio: Village Roadshow Pictures
Stars: Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jennifer Connelly, Russell Crowe
The charming, underrated and apparently luckless Colin Farrell plays small-time crook Peter Lake who, as an infant, had been set adrift in a model sailing ship by his heartsick immigrant parents and raised and trained in the ways of the wicked by demonic criminal king Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), a thug with ties to none other than Lucifer himself (Will Smith—and the casting decision is as campy and disastrous as one might imagine).
Our rascally thieving hero falls madly for one of his intended victims, a doomed young beauty (Jessica Brown Findlay, late of Downton Abbey), the dying daughter of a newspaper baron (William Hurt). Lovestruck and inspired to be a better man, he decides to break away from the thieving life, provoking a manhunt by the vengeful Soames and his well-dressed minions. Things go awry and Farrell’s character finds himself an amnesiac adrift in modern-day New York, where he gets aided by lovely, fretful, ever-on-the-brink-of-tears newspaper columnist Jennifer Connelly, one of the screen’s reigning maids of constant sorrow.
There’s also a brief intervention from Eva Marie Saint, who at least briefly gives a leaden, earthbound movie a touch of real movie magic. Look, we’re all for a return of big-screen romance, so everyone involved with Winter’s Tale earns points for at least trying to do something Hollywood’s become too cynical and demographic-driven to attempt very often. But the movie plods. It feels flat and airless. Rather than going for full-blooded, high-stakes, grown-up romance, it plays like something made for 14-year-olds who think in emoticons.
Even though some of the CGI looks rushed and tacky, even if this thing goes heavy on sparkling lights and philosophical voiceovers, the movie might have worked if Goldsman had caught more of the novel's emotion, fire and heart. And in less than optimum circumstances, Farrell gives a nice, sincere, openhearted performance and Crowe at least seems to have amused himself. But, seriously, that white horse is the real McCoy. It steals the picture.