FlixChatter Review: Winter’s Tale


Let me preface this review by saying that Akiva Goldsman should stick to writing screenplays or producing films instead of working behind the camera. In his debut feature, Goldsman’s wearing multiple hat as producer, writer AND director. The film takes place at the turn of the century New York City, where the protagonist, Peter Lake, has a Moses-like beginning. His immigrant parents [Russian?] were denied admission at Ellis Island and his dad set baby Peter adrift in NY harbor in a miniature model ship called City of Justice. Fast forward to about 30-some years and we find Peter (Colin Farrell, sporting an odd looking haircut) being on the run by some Irish gangster led by Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe, trying his best to mimic Farrell’s Irish accent). Miraculously he’s saved by a winged white horse who later doubles as his guardian angel plus transportation. All of this sounds quite enchanting on paper but the plodding pace of this film didn’t exactly stimulate me, but I was hoping the story would pick up soon enough.

The horse then somehow leads Peter to a house where he’d inevitably meets the love of his life. As Peter is a burglar, he’s about about to rob her mansion when the chance encounter happens. It turns out that the beautiful but frail Beverly is dying, but that of course doesn’t get in the way of the two falling in love. Now I don’t know if her disease causes her to speak in some kind of poetic language because that is how she talks in this movie. I quite like Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sibyl from Downton Abbey) but the script made it tough to relate to her character and the schmaltzy-ness of it all is starting to get on my nerves. To top it off, I still have no clue what’s the deal with Pearly’s vengeance against Peter, and suddenly he now wants Beverly dead. It’s never fully explained why, but it’s quite obvious that this mission is a personal one for Pearly. He’s even more upset as Peter then snatches Beverly away from his grasp, thanks once again to the winged horse.


The supernatural elements of the story just gets weirder, not to mention incomprehensible, as we meet Pearly’s boss named Lucifer. Yep, you read that right, the fallen archangel/devil himself, played by Will Smith. It’s quite an odd casting choice but really that’s the least of this film’s problem. So the the lord of ALL evil beings in the universe lives in a dingy tower with only a twin bed and lit by a single lightbulb?? [shrugs] Neither Pearly nor Lucifer are the least bit menacing nor sinister enough to make any real impact, and the whole conversation is so cringe-worthy that my mind kept wandering just how much Crowe and Smith got paid to star in this stinker. Both actors (as well as Jennifer Connelly) have worked with Goldsman before so I wonder if this is some kind of favor they’re doing for him or something. I read somewhere that Goldsman wrote the role of Pearly with Crowe in mind, hmmm not sure that’s a compliment for the Aussie thespian after seeing the film.

Farrell and Findlay did their best to sell their romance and I have to admit there are some touching moments but overall it just wasn’t as gripping than it could’ve been. By the time the film takes place in present day, I’m still barely invested in any of the characters and the story remains a huge mystery to me, and not in a good way. Apparently Peter is immortal as he doesn’t age a day in his life and here he meets a couple of new people, as well as someone from the past, played by Jennifer Connelly and Eva Marie Saint. Despite the A-list ensemble’s (especially Farrell at his most earnest) best efforts to win us over, they’re all wasted here by the cloying and over-sentimental script that drags early and repetitively. The behind-the-scene talents are equally first rate but none of them can really save this film. Hans Zimmer‘s score is pleasant to the ear but it also heighten the lovey-dovey mood of the whole thing. Caleb Deschanel‘s gorgeous cinematography of New York City is quite a feast for the eyes, but it makes my brain desperately ache for something meaty to feast on as well.


The agony is complete with an ending that is utterly predictable and so gratingly mawkish that would make any of Nicholas Sparks’ adaptation seems gritty. There are themes of good versus evil, love, life, loss and redemption here, but the narrative is neither cohesive or compelling. Plus it’s chock full of trite dialog with dreary lines about *destiny* and *everything is connected* mumbo jumbo. It leaves me scratching my head as this comes from the writer of A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man, but this mishmash script is perhaps more akin to Batman & Robin which Goldsman also wrote. 

Final Thoughts: All the talks about miracles, stars and magical moments amounts to a film that is totally devoid of magic. It’s really a shame as reading the premise of the novel later on (which was altered quite a bit for the film) makes me think that Mark Helprin‘s mythical story deserves so much better. We don’t get enough romance fantasy so I was really hoping this would be a decent enough movie even if it’d probably fall short of Goldsman’s grandiose ambition. Well, I really wasn’t expecting to see one of the worst films I’ve seen in a long time.


What did you think of Winter’s Tale? 

49 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: Winter’s Tale

  1. As much as I enjoy Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe, the trailer looked suspicious to me. Tell me, has there any good (romantic) movies released for Valentine’s Day in the last few years? Seems like there hasn’t been. Thanks for taking one for the team, Ruth.

    1. Hi Michael! Yeah it’s really too bad as the source material deserves better. Hollywood should’ve left it alone as it seemed like a tough one to adapt, let alone letting a first time director tackle it. It’s too bad there hasn’t been a decent Valentine film lately, might as well settle with one of the 10 great ones I listed last Friday 😉

  2. Heh, damn, not a fan of this one at all, huh? I had to see this after I read about Will Smith’s character, and, going in expecting similar levels of silliness abound, this movie didn’t disappoint in that regard. I actually enjoyed myself throughout, though I can see how it could potentially be grating, lol. 😛

    1. I really wanted to like this movie Chris, it really pains me to give such a bad rating but it is what it is. Will Smith’s character is utterly laughable to me, one of the movie’s unintentional comedy. I think the dialog is especially grating… I like romance as much as the next gal but oh man, this makes me miss Nora Ephron’s movies!!

      1. I’m not sure how unintentional it was. I mean, he was wearing a Jimmy Hendrix shirt in the early 1900s. You gotta be at least a little aware to pull off something like that. 😛

        1. Ahah I suppose, but the film’s tone makes me think it takes itself seriously. If that’s intended to be some kind of pun or satire, it’s entirely lost on me.

  3. OUCH!!!! The dreaded 1.5 reels! I gotta say that thing looked like a stinker. As you say, there is an A-list cast involved which is really surprising considering how crappy the story seems. Happy to say I will continue skipping this one! 🙂

    1. I wish it hadn’t been Keith, but it really made me cringe. The A-list cast must’ve been really good friends w/ Goldsman to overlook a script THIS cliched! Yeah, just skip this one man.

      Btw, did you see The LEGO movie?

  4. I knew this was going to be crap. When I saw the trailer, it looked awful and schmaltzy. Then I saw Akiva Goldsman name and I’m like “oh fuck”. He’s an overrated hack who has never written anything that I like and I still to this day, hate him for almost killing the Batman franchise w/ his stupid quotes like “Hi Freeze, I’m Batman!”

    1. I wish I had listened to my instinct, ahah. Ahahaha, that is a horrendous line but I quite like Cinderella Man. I can see why you think he’s a hack though, this one would certainly reinforce your sentiment, Steven.

  5. Tis a bummer that this is so average. Given it has appeared in cinema with very little hype, it is probably not unexpected. If it was quality, the studio would have been pushing a film with this cast big time. A shame, because the magical elements sounded somewhat interesting.

    1. It’s not even average, it’s bad. I think the lack of marketing is probably a hint that the studios aren’t even confident about it. It’s really a waste of talents, not even a flying horse can save this flick.

  6. Ted S.

    When I first saw the trailer, I was a bit intrigued but then I saw the name Akiva Goldsman attached to it, I knew it’s going to be bad. I was never a fan of his work, he gets too many credits for all of the successful films he wrote, all of those scripts he wrote were rewritten many times but of course he gets all the credit. Before he hit gold with A Beautiful Mind, he wrote some of the worst films ever made, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin and Lost In Space. Heck he even ruined a great script by rewriting i, Robot, although that wasn’t really his fault since studio didn’t like the original script.

    It’s funny that you mentioned why those big named stars would even appear in this movie, I think they all felt they owe him since he wrote some of their most profitable movies, he wrote I Am Legend and i, Robot for smith and of course A Beautiful Mind for Crowe.

    So it’s safe to say I’ll be staying away from this movie and Goldsman shouldn’t work on any movie again ever! Yeah I really don’t like the man. LOL.

    1. Oh I didn’t know there were tons of rewrites on some of the scripts he wrote but he still got the credit, that’s so unfair! Well since this one would probably be a loss to the studio, I doubt he’d be able to direct again though he probably still will get work as screenwriter. He’s doing the last two Divergent sequels.

      Yeah stay away from this Ted, esp this is not even your genre.

      1. Ted S.

        It’s pretty common practice in Hollywood that most scripts get a few rewrites before the cameras started rolling. Unless the director is also the writer then he/she can have total control of the script. I remember Tony Gilroy wanted his name removed from The Bourne Identity because his original script was rewritten a few times and he hated the movie. But since the studio kept at least 50% of what he wrote, his name has to stay in the credits. Of course the movie was a hit and Gilroy career took off and I’m sure he’s glad his name didn’t get removed.

  7. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ruth:

    So much rampant Testosterone. So little manly action. ‘Winter’s Tale’ sounds like an exploration the depths of “bad” required to appreciate “good”. Must have been one the reasons for the film’s brief and erratic ad campaign.

    Think I’ll opt for a rerun of SWAT or ‘L.A. Confidential’, instead.

  8. This has me SO FUCKING SAD! Winter’s Tale is probably my favorite novel I’ve ever read…seriously…it’s that good! I had such high hopes for this, but it seems like they got it all wrong. I weep for what could have been.

    1. I started reading about the novel which seems to be altered quite a bit by Goldsman. It’s really his fault as he wrote n directed this stinker. I weep for what it cloud’ve been too!

  9. Sounds truly and totally wretched. Which is what I expected when I saw the trailer. I might still see it at some point (because I see most new big releases), but I am not looking forward to it. 🙂

    Great review, as always.

    1. If you go see it just go on matinee Josh. There are things to appreciate, i.e. the scenery, but overall it’s perhaps the biggest dud of 2014 😦

  10. Great review. I was really expecting for this film to be good, but I guess it isn’t. Oh well…
    Also, LOL at one of the pictures above with the gross Dunkin Donuts product placement! haha

    1. Ahah yeah well that’s the present day NYC. I laughed when I saw that too but really this film is so ridiculous anyway there are so much unintentional humor!

        1. I wish I could tell you the unintentional humor makes it entertaining, but it wasn’t so. Unless you’re a huge fan of any of the cast, I can’t imagine this would be worth your while Fernando.

            1. Ahah, I don’t think ANYONE or ANYTHING, even a majestic flying horse, could save this film. Well perhaps a different writer and director, ahah.

  11. This sounds hilarious 😛 Crowe has been doing the kind of roles Cage does lately – his space ghost in Man of Steel was so ridiculous I actually found the film somewhat enjoyable whenever he showed up. Definitely gonna check this out, sounds like a trainwreck,

    1. Ahah yeah, lots of unintentional humor, esp the scenes w/ Crowe and Smith, wow! I actually like him as Jor-El, esp when he was giving Lois Lane instructions on the space ship, ahah. Now this one is quite excruciating to watch for its saccharine schmaltzy-ness.

    1. Yeah I know, he hasn’t been in a truly good film in a while. I’m not even looking forward to NOAH, the first environmentalist of the world?? Heh, seems that Hollywood loves borrowing from the Bible with no intention on honoring the subject matter.

    1. Hello Mark! Yeah it’s really that bad I’m afraid. I was hoping it’d be decent as I like the idea of a fantasy romance and the cast is pretty good, alas the script and direction didn’t do this story any favor. Turns out to be quite a waste of the talent involved.

  12. Yikes! I liked it (3.5/5), but it had a lot of problems. I suspect the lengthy novel fleshes out more of the story and these characters, which is the biggest problem I had with the film. It’s too fast and doesn’t establish this world very well. And several actors seem miscast. I did really like Jessica Brown Findlay’s performance, though, as well as the score.

  13. Pingback: 2014 Recap: Top 10 Best + 5 Worst Movies of the Year |

  14. Pingback: Weekend Roundup: counting down to MSPIFF 2016 + ‘Meet the Patels’ documentary (2014) review

  15. Pingback: Star Trek: Picard – Binge-worthy for non-Trekkie like me – FlixChatter Film Blog

Join the conversation by leaving a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s