In his first time directing a film, Ron Howard’s go-to screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind; Cinderella Man) shows veteran craftsmanship with Winter’s Tale. Starting in a subtly magical 1916 New York, his adaptation of Mark Helprin’s novel gets the period details spot on, from the automobiles to the costumes to the slightly dusty city facades. From this postcard-ready environment, the somewhat literally star-crossed romance between master thief Peter Lake (Colin Ferrell) and consumption-ridden Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay) blossoms to elegant ends. Their chemistry is so strong that, for the most part, it’s able to overcome the film’s less successful aspects, such as goofy storybook flashbacks to Lake’s infancy and a comically stiff Will Smith cameo as the boss of demonic enforcer Pearly Soames (a facially scarred Russell Crowe).
Where Goldsman lets himself down a bit is, interestingly enough, as in the script, specifically when Winter’s Tale shifts to modern day. There’s something about miracles and spirit animal guides in an older time that’s more fitting than these same occurrences amidst smart phones and cruise control. Still, enough of the romance and magical realism carries through to tie up loose ends from the superior first half. Think of this inconsistent, overly serious fantasy as Princess Bride without the jokes: good enough, but not nearly on the level its star power suggests.
Rated PG-13 for violence and some sensuality.
Winter’s Tale is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.