Winter’s Tale (2014)

Final Rating: 0.8/10

Akiva Goldsman. That’s a name you should recognize. As a director, your name gets put out front for the barrage of tomatoes coming your way. As a writer, you may be able to slither past the crowd as they look elsewhere. It’s true: A director does get most of the final say of what goes into a film, so they do give the final go ahead and thus are to blame for a final product. People like M Night Shyamalan, Uwe Boll, Roland Emmerich and even Joel Shumacher are whined about constantly (for good reason) for their films. Well, let’s look at what Joel Shumacher’s worst film is: Batman and Robin. Absolutely everything was horrible about this film, but a very big part of what went wrong was the script; With its muddling story, cliched characters and that god awful dialogue that will make you cringe for years to come. Who wrote Batman and Robin? No surprise! Akiva Goldsman. What’s more surprising is that this man has an Academy Award: Not because he didn’t deserve the award, but because he actually is capable of doing good work (he won in 2001 for Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine). But now, his more-usual lackluster work is out in the open. Now, it is his name that is above all as he is the director here. Now, it’s his time to release one of the worst films in recent memory: Winter’s Tale.

Winter’s Tale is so bad that Goldsman had a tough time directing how we should all react in the theater, never mind take control of everyone involved with making the movie. There were many a time where I wasn’t sure if I should laugh manically like Lindsay Weir reacting to Daniel Desario’s ridiculousness in Freaks and Geeks or if I should instead hold that energy trying to not slap my forehead for the umpteenth time. Virtually everything about the story is terrible; Never mind amateur. We have a thief named Peter Lake (played by Colin Farrell of whom should perhaps look into getting a new agent) who falls in love with a sick woman he was initially robbing named Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay). As it is a love story, they immediately fall for one another, despite him trying to steal from her initially (well, if she wasn’t a young and pretty woman, he would have stolen anyways, right?). Well, this all happens after Peter Lake evades a group of police officers by jumping onto a white horse that gallops away and somehow for the duration of the movie has the ability to fly. At this point, the romance even beginning seems less believable than a “spirit animal” that can fly on command despite not being a flying animal in the first place (why the hell was it not an eagle?).

You have an Irish demon officer played hilariously by Russell Crowe (I just can’t drink anymore to the sorrows of his current acting choices. I’ve done enough of that) with an accent as wobbly as Javert’s fall in Les Miserables. He fondles marbles mindlessly to create light images of Peter Lake’s whereabouts (and yes, there is no rhyme or reason as to how he plays with these objects. He just kind of muddles with them), and he even incorrectly yells “Yahtzee!” when he finds Lake the first time (as, not only is this line absolutely embarrassing, but it is also factually wrong as the game was invented in 1955 and the film is still in the late 1916 at this point). He answers to Lucifer himself, played by Will Smith, and there is no reason to go into this any more. Oh, apart from the fact that Lucifer plays with a lightbulb and hides in the shadows kind of like Hayley Williams in the music video for Ignorance (I resorted to comparing the Fresh Prince of Bel Air to the lead singer of Paramore. That’s how awkward this film is). This officer wants Peter Lake dead, essentially.

Beverly’s father, William Hurt, seems to not care too much that a robber that barely knows his daughter is obsessed with her. In fact, his other daughter Willia is even more obsessed with Peter. We’ll see her again a hundred years later when she is over a hundred at this point, walking perfectly fine and is not retired, but rather running a large company. Does that make sense whatsoever? Well, it shouldn’t matter in a film where one can be head butted and thrown over a high bridge only to be completely fine apart from having amnesia, a man can survive over a hundred years without any form of identification or job (don’t give me that “he’s a thief” nonsense, either, you can only rob for so long without getting caught, especially if he was spotted by a sick woman a hundred years before), and someone can turn into an ice sculpture when they die.

It may make little sense as I am glossing over these plot points, but it makes little sense in the film as well. For a fantasy film, it does a very poor job of setting up any sense of magic or purpose. Things just sort of happen and you are expected to be okay with whatever is flung at you because this is a fantasy love story, and anyone who doesn’t believe in fairy tales or true love is an asshole. The worst part is that everyone in the film is okay with whatever comes their way. Jennifer Connelly plays a mother in 2014 who sees Peter Lake, having never aged since 1916 (oddly enough one of the very few things partially explained well enough in the film) who just accepts the fact that this man she has just met off the street is the oldest man in the world right now despite looking her age. She also reacts pretty poorly to the fact that Peter Lake is fighting and killing people right in front of her dying, cancer ridden child. She kind of just barks during all of this monstrous mayhem. What about caring that this random man who promises you a very farfetched “miracle” to save your child has threatened both the lives of you and your child? Apparently, that concern doesn’t exist.
The movie poster’s tag line is just as silly as the film. It states that “This is not a true story. It is true love”. Basically: Accept anything and just turn your brain off. I don’t mind shallow entertainment, but a film that blatantly insults your intelligence is a slap in the face. When a film goes past unbelievability, being incorrect and even plot holes is when forgiveness is no longer an option. When a flying horse stops just short of a destination for no good reason, only to have the protagonist immediately spotted by the villains, if you aren’t screaming at the movie for not making the horse go the full way into the safe house for the hero, you’ve been brainwashed by everything else in this film. When a film has some of the worst dialogue in recent years (such as naming a horse “horse”, a thief insisting that a woman lets him steal her heart, and the final line of the movie being “what if some of us were meant to become stars?”), you can only quote it to punish others as you have been punished.

As such, Winter’s Tale may be the worst or the funniest movie experience of 2014 and it’s only March. You have every right to be curious, but don’t blame me if you’re disappointed (which it may be damn well impossible to be with a film so low already). Whether you’re wanting to laugh or wanting to experience absurdity: Enjoy!

About author

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.