Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fairy Tale

I'm going to start my review of Winter's Tale (2014) with, again, a discussion of the source material. I read, and pretty much loved, Mark Helprin's magical realist novel of New York. (Distraction: I had poet and novelist Mark Helprin mixed up with rightwing water-carrier Mark Halperin for a long time. I was glad to find out they were not the same person.) It is a wondrous tale of beauty and mystery and I didn't care whether it made a lick of sense.

Now, the movie actually manages to tease a plot out of the book. It tells about how Peter Lake's (Colin Farrell) immigrant parents set him adrift in a model yacht when they were turned away from America at Ellis Island. He grew up to be a thief in 1914 New York, on the run from Russell Crowe's gang of bowler hatted ruffians. He is rescued by a magic white horse, who Crowe calls the White Dog of the East - yes, the horse is really a dog. Yes, that is truly magic.

The horse gets Farrell mixed up with the beautiful but doomed Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay). She suffers from a consumptive fever, so she walks around barefoot in the snow and talks about how light connects us all to the stars and miracles and destiny or something. Oh and she has never been kissed on the mouth. She is not just feverish, she is hot.

So Farrell and Findlay are in love. They go up to her upstate mansion on the white dog-horse, on the frozen Hudson. They meet her father, William Hurt, millionaire media mogul in mourning for his wife. He is barely in the movie, but manages to make his mark.

Now, in the book, a lot of things happen. There is a lot of stuff about early 20th century gangs, like the Dead Rabbit gang. The Grand Central Station Oyster Bar is a major locus of power. Also, characters are unanchored in time, disappearing and showing up decades later, unaged, but sometimes changed. This movie strips most of that away, in favor of a love story that almost makes sense. Although it has some time travel, several magical creatures and a somewhat confusing metaphysics of light, stars and miracles, it is a very simplified version of the novel.

As a result, it is somewhat less magical, less enthralling. Also, the cinematography doesn't always match the ambitions of script-writer and first time director Akiva Goldsman (Batman and Robin, but don't hold that against him). Still, this is a pretty lovely movie. It's a bit schmaltzy, but Findlay is quite lovable, and I always enjoy Colin Farrell - Daredevil's Bullseye!

Your mileage may vary. Once again, it might help if you read the book a long time ago, and liked it, but don't remember the details very well.

In conclusion, the How Did This Get Made podcast had a lot to say about this one. I mainly watched it so I could listen to the podcast without worrying about spoilers.

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