On Valentine’s Day 2014, the film adaptation of Mark Helperin’s novel Winter’s Tale was released, marketed as a date night movie. I admit it: it was not a film that spoke to me in the previews. I skipped it in theaters, but made an impetuous decision to purchase it on DVD. After all, Russell Crowe had a prominent role.
At the center of the movie is an unlikely love story between a handsome thief and a rich beautiful consumptive young woman, set in a fairy-tale New York City. Ordinarily this would be my idea of a rainy-day movie, one to revisit from time to time when I need escapist entertainment and a good cry, but I just didn’t like it.
Today I decided to give it another try. I watched it through different eyes, concentrating on the story of Peter Lake and Beverly Penn, treating Pearly Soames as a peripheral character. The unlikely romance could have only sprung from the miracle of a dying woman’s love. Belief in good, evil, and miracles are a requirement to make the tale work. The sincerity of Peter’s love for the dying Beverly pierces even her father’s cynical heart, especially when Peter is willing to risk death to fix a furnace. The period sets and costumes were particularly romantic, especially the billowing draperies of Beverly’s roof-top tents, designed to help her keep her fevers under control. Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay were perfectly matched in beauty and style. It was easy to believe their romance, making it the Valentine love story that I wanted it to be.
This time the second act tale of the dying little girl Abby and her mother felt genuine, though a bit rushed. The premise that Peter was always meant to be Abby’s miracle strained my belief a bit because it required Beverly to be Peter’s miracle: keeping him alive to be Abby’s miracle. Confused me, I admit.
So why didn’t I like it the first time? Russell Crowe has played some memorable “morally-compromised” characters: Sid 6.1 in Virtuosity, Bud White in L.A. Confidential, and Ben Wade in 3:10 to Yuma spring immediately to mind. Pearly Soames, the goggle-eyed over-the-top Demon with the horrific Irish accent, detracted from every scene he was in. His scenes with Will Smith as the Judge were particularly annoying because the Judge exuded off a sense of quiet menace, one that would have better suited Russell. I did enjoy the cameo roles from Matt Bomer, Lucy Griffiths, Alan Doyle, Scott Grimes, Norm Lewis (Javert on Broadway and in the West End), and Kevin Durand. It was a glowing 90-year-old Eva Marie Saint stole every scene she was in — how can one woman remain so enchanting for so long? It seems unfair.
This Valentine’s Day, if you want a romantic fairy tale about love and loss, and good and evil, Winter’s Tale should fit your needs.