A New York Winter’s Tale (2014)

A New York Winter’s Tale (2014)

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One floppy haired man and his horse.
One floppy haired man and his horse.

Twitter Plot Summary: Thief Peter Lake has to contend with demon Pearly Soames whilst falling for the soon to die Beverly.

Five Point Summary:

1. Colin Farrell and his floppy hair.
2. Nice accent, Russell…
3. Oh noes – it’s all gone horribly wrong.
4. How old is that woman, 110?  
5. Fighting there? Not a good idea.

Fantasy is a much maligned genre of late, and has certainly been on the back foot since its heyday in the 1980s. It’s another of those genres that folks lately either get right (Harry Potter) or horribly, horribly wrong (everything else since the 80s ended).

There are a number of problems with A New York Winter’s Tale, which is a shame as it’s so well intentioned that it feels like you’re a right swine being negative about it. That’s further enhanced when you learn that writer/director Akiva Goldsman put the story together following the death of his wife. With that in mind it’s hard not to see what he was aiming for with this tale of love across the ages. Well, across 1916 and 2014. Goldsman is somewhat of an easy target for the film community given the list of writing credits to his name (Batman and Robin, The Da Vinci Code and Lost in Space, amongst others), however his adaptation of the 800 page behemoth by Mark Helprin is a deserving target for negativity and/or ridicule for being so over earnest it verges on pantomime.

The story sees small time thief Peter Lake (Farrell) escape from the clutches of villainy villain Pearly Soames (yes, really. Played by Russell Crowe) atop a magic horse that can fly. But the horse is actually a dog. Or something. The horse makes Lake break into a house where the sole occupant is a young girl called Beverly, who just so happens to be dying of consumption. A love story unfolds between them and Pearly really doesn’t like what he’s seeing as Lake used to work for him, y’see. Thus, Pearly sets out to cause some mischief. Albeit unintentionally badly. How this demon became a trusted agent of Lucifer, I’ll never know.

"Arr, they're always after me lucky charms!"
“Arr, they’re always after me lucky charms!”

Those problems I mentioned? Let’s run through them. Firstly the story has no set up – fantasy elements are introduced into this real world setting without any establishment or forewarning. The rules aren’t made apparent so as soon as the horse makes an impossible leap over a fence you’re left with a raised eyebrow. Or maybe two, it’s your call. A portion of opening narrative to explain the setting would have made all the difference. Second, Russell Crowe’s accent is horrific to the point of being a shade away from impersonating the Lucky Charms leprechaun. If you think of Colin Farrell as his bowl of Lucky Charms, you’re already halfway there. Third, the jump from the 1910s to 2014 is presented badly and doesn’t make a whole lot of narrative sense – there’s a woman editing a magazine who by all rights should have died/retired/both years previously, and nobody seems to be concerned that Peter Lake can live for over 100 years without aging. We get no sense that Peter Lake has been lost for 100 years and all things considered this part of the narrative needs a lot of work in order to be coherent. You almost feel sorry for Jennifer Connelly who shows up and doesn’t do much at all. Fourth, the love story between Lake and Beverly needed more time to feel believable – it feels like he breaks in and then suddenly they’re intertwined.

In fact if I’m going to provide the film with any praise, it’s the scenes featuring Lucifer, a cameo appearance which I will not spoil. However you consider the product overall, those scenes are clearly the best you’re going to get. A scene with William Hurt and Colin Farrell trying to fix a boiler – and no doubt trying to convey some deep meaning about trust, family and so on – falls incredibly short by comparison.

A flawed work then? Yes, and then some. But as I said at the beginning, it’s hard to overtly mean towards it as it’s coming from a genuine and heartfelt place. Others may disagree – and that’s there prerogative after all – but the emotional angle of the story, in places at least, does hit its mark, and the Lucifer scenes are worth the price of entry, but the rest of it is ham fisted and nigh on cringeworthy. Suffice to say, I get the impression that the book fares better on all accounts.

Score: 1.5/5

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