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Review: 'Winter's Tale' warm, fuzzy

By By Michelle F. Solomon, Contributing writer
Published On: Feb 14 2014 04:39:21 PM CST
Winter's Tale

Every now and then, you need a good fairy tale, and just as the snow is piling up around the country, Winter's Tale comes along like s'mores. It may appear to have a protective outer layer -- a typical story steeped in good vs. evil, but unearths its center and the core is warm and fuzzy.

The only question is why did it take so long for a movie adaption of Mark Helprin's 1983 best seller to arrive? Seems like this book was ripe for the big screen from the get go.

Colin Farrell plays Peter Lake, a thief in 1914 New York whose fault lies in that he has a soul about stealing.  He steals out of necessity -- an orphan who washed up on the shores of the river-- he realized he had a knack for machinery. He takes a job with Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe, made up with a serious scar and a consistent scowl), one of those underground bad guys who has sidekicks named Romeo and Caesar. When he walks into a restaurant, tables clear. There's something dastardly evil about Soames and it goes way deeper than being an earthly bad guy; this guy's hell on wheels. When you meet his boss (no spoiler here because this movie cameo is priceless), it will all make sense.

So Lake has parted ways with ol' Soames. And the drama of Winter's Tale arrives from the cat and mouse game the two play. We soon find out that perhaps Lake has assistance from a higher source that specializes in creating miracles.

Winter's Tale's sob story could be so sugary sweet your teeth should ache by the end of two hours, but cinematographer Caleb Deschanel's camera makes everything so ethereal that you can't help but be gently swayed.

Absolutely wonderful and sparking oodles of chemistry with Farrell is the beautiful Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey fans rejoice) as Beverly Penn. Beverly has never been kissed and is counting her last days on Earth until she's taken by consumption (why is no one taken by consumption anymore? It sounds like such a dramatic way to die).

Her overprotective father, Isaac Penn, a renowned newspaper editor (when newspapers were still revered), is perfectly cast. William Hurt does what he does best, delivering his pearls of wisdom on life as Penn in a perfectly monotone delivery. A particularly fantastic scene, which only Mr. Hurt could make soar, is when Penn banters with Lake over the pronunciation of fillet and Claret. Lake says fillay, Penn says fill-ette; same with Claray and Clar-ette. "You don't say wall-ay, you say wall-ette," says Penn. Point taken.

The movie takes a dive, however, when it speeds ahead to 2014 with Jennifer Connelly as a journalist with a sickly daughter. Connelly is so emotionless next to Farrell it's utterly jarring -- I felt like she awakened me from my dream as I was still on the high of Brown Findlay's ability to fill the screen.

Whatever its minor flaws, Winter's Tale is beautiful and wonderful. It's as magical to watch as the white horse that sprouts wings and whisks anyone in danger over Manhattan's murky rooftops. Written and directed by Akiva Goldsman, this supernatural tale will be a hard sell for a mass audience, but for those who invest their hearts and souls in it, it’s a worthwhile adventure.

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