Winter’s Tale

{Winter’s Tale opens in Seattle on Friday, 2/14, and is screening at AMC Pacific Place, Sundance Cinemas Seattle, and Oak Tree Cinema}

Going into Winter’s Tale without having read the book, and without really knowing what I was getting into was … interesting.

What looked like a period romance with some kind of time travel twist in the previews actually turned out to be a battle between heaven and hell for souls, complete with a winged horse and magical (evil?) gemstones. These things probably read really well on paper, but not so much on screen—at least, not in this adaptation. Thankfully, Colin Farrell can act his way around anything, even if it's a glowering, hammy Russell Crowe.

Farrell is Peter Lake, an orphan set adrift on a toy sailboat and cast towards the shores of New York by his parents, who failed to pass the health exam and become citizens in 1895. At some point, he’s adopted by the nefarious Pearly Soames (Crowe), who also happens to be a demon, and serves Lucifer by, I guess, corrupting souls, killing hope, and delights in shredding virgins with his claws and doodling portraits with their blood.

Now that he’s all grown up, Lake doesn’t really care for his boss’s temper and plans to make his escape form the city by robbing enough rich people to get away—which is when he accidentally meets the love of his life, Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), who is tragically dying of consumption. Like, the kind of consumption that melts snow and forces her to sleep in a tent outside and creates sparkling lights.

Of course Peter and Beverly fall instantly in love (something which her father seems to accept with very little questions asked), and Soames forms a plan to crush their hope by accelerating Beverly’s death and stopping Lake from completing his “miracle.” The aforementioned winged horse is then set free during their fistfight, and then Peter plunges to his not-death in a river waking up 100 years later in modern day NYC.

I don’t even know what to say after that, except that something was obviously lost in translation. Director Akiva Goldsman adapted the screenplay, and I’m not sure if whole portions were left out of the script, or in the editing bay, or if the man just doesn’t know how to string together a good story. I’m betting there’s a little of all three happening, and a lot of his choices don’t help—for instance, any time you cast Will Smith as Lucifer, you should just give in and admit your movie is camp.

Which leads me to this conclusion: the only way to watch Winter’s Tale is to accept it as high camp and wait for it to become a cult classic. And if you can’t wait, grab a few drinks beforehand and try to enjoy two hours of its dreamy leading man.