Niagara Gazette — The 1983 fantasy novel “Winter’s Tale,” by Mark Helprin, has a large and loyal following. Akiva Goldsman is a screenwriter who’s had some successes: “A Beautiful Mind,” and some missteps: “The Da Vinci Code.”
The screenplay for “Winter’s Tale” is written by Goldsman. It’s his directorial debut. What he’s rendered is a plodding mess, a shallow film so bereft of style and believability that it makes you wonder why the book is so popular and why he keeps getting movie work.
The picture embraces “magical realism,” those fantasy components that may read well on the page, but if not done correctly, end up being silly and laughable on the screen. The novel runs 672-pages. The film ran an interminable 118-minutes. Vast swaths of the book have been cut, characters have been eliminated, and some plot elements compressed. Goldsman must have thought his screenplay captured the essence of the novel. He miscalculated.
The movie focuses on Peter Lake (Colin Farrell, using his thickest, difficult-to-decipher Irish brogue). In Manhattan in 1916, during the period known as the Gilded Age, Lake is a frisky thief who’s run afoul of a vicious crime boss named Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe, doing his standard impression of an evil, angry windbag; this time with an impenetrable Irish accent). Years earlier, Lake’s parents were denied entry to America. While on the ship returning to their homeland, they put baby Peter into a tiny wooden boat hoping it would sail back to New York. Lake was found and grew up to be a cat burglar.
Soames has clearly made a pact with the devil. It must have been an interesting bargain because the characterization of Lucifer, named Judge, is played by Will Smith wearing a trendy T-shirt and sporting hoop earrings.