A New York Winter’s Tale
Some romances are so beautiful, so poignant that even St Valentine’s harshest critic can overlook the odd cheesy line or corny cliché. A New York Winter’s Tale, sadly, is not one of them.
However, Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel Winter’s Tale, from which the film is adapted, is by most accounts an excellent read. Spanning the entirety of the 20th century, it tells the fantastical story of Peter Lake, an Irish orphan and burglar who falls in star-crossed love with terminally consumptive New York heiress Beverly Penn. He desperately wants to save her from her fate, while at the same time avoiding the cruel grasp of Pearly Soames, a demon and one time mentor of Lake’s. These endeavours result in a time-travelling, real world transcending epic narrative, perhaps one that is only capable of being developed effectively in the requisite 800 pages written by Helprin.
By contrast, “no screenplay could contain every element” explains screenwriter and director Akiva Goldsman, of A Beautiful Mind fame. Already enamoured by the story, his love was really cemented during the adaptation process when he suffered an unexpected loss. “When I started writing again, Winter’s Tale went from something I loved to the thing I loved the most.” This moving insight may give some explanation for the intense sentimentality of the dialogue, which became so over the top that it elicited an outbreak of laughter in the theatre as the credits began to roll. Further elucidation may be found in his admittance that “it had come to mean so much to me that I knew I had to direct the film too.” Maybe this narrow focus inadvertently caused the neglect of character development as well as the limitation of the supernatural elements, which are inadequately explained and jerkily inserted in to the plot.
A minor antidote is provided by the strong acting. Russell Crowe’s Soames is distinctive and as sinister as they come, while Will Smith provides an entertaining cameo in the part of Lucifer himself. Playing the hero, Colin Farrell is so burdened with cringe-worthy declarations of admiration and looks of longing that the glimpses of the no-nonsense actor we know and love are overshadowed. Relative newcomer Jessica Brown Findlay gives as excellent a performance as she can of a slightly irritatingly chirpy Penn. Although audiences may find the 21-year-old virgin, naive and infantilised by seclusion as a result of her illness, a somewhat trying depiction of femininity.
A New York Winter’s Tale is released nationwide on 21st February 2014.
Watch the trailer for A New York Winter’s Tale here: