Colin Farrell, one of the stars of Winter’s Tale, may have referred to the sentimental love story as the perfect date night flick, but some critics seem hesitant to agree. In the sweet and schmaltzy story, Farrell plays a burglar who works for a man with mystical powers, falls in love with a dying heiress, and realizes he has the superpower gift of time travel. The fantastical drama, adapted from a 1983 novel by Mark Helprin, was written, produced, and directed by Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind). The film attempts to dazzle viewers with sensational special effects, mysterious flying horses, demon squads, and a mega star-studded cast. However, early reviews of Winter’s Tale, scheduled to debut in theaters on Valentine’s Day, are downright chilly, with many critics giving the splashy story the cold shoulder.
Audiences and critics had high hopes for the film, which showcases performances by some of Hollywood’s best and brightest. Colin Farrell, Jennifer Connelly, Jessica Brown Findlay, Eva Marie Saint, and William Hurt are just a few of the faces movie-goers will see studding the screen. Will Smith also contributes, popping up in a surprise cameo that, unfortunately, leaves some critics shaking their heads. If early reviews are any indication of audience appreciation, many viewers may leave the theaters feeling less-than-stellar as well.
Justin Chang, Chief Film Critic at Variety calls Winter’s Tale “a cloying, sledgehammer-subtle adaptation of Mark Helprin’s vastly richer novel.” Other critics agree, describing the film as “the worst major studio release with respected actors in five years” (Jordan Hoffman of Screen Crush) and “hilariously terrible in any season” (Matt Pais of Red Eye). Even those who love a good love story agree that Winter’s Tale simply fails to meet its mark. Critics report cumbersome dialogue, confusing visual effects, and perplexing plot holes. Most seem to agree that Goldsman’s attempt to streamline Helprin’s epic story succeeds only in falling flat.
But every story has to have a silver lining, right? Although Winter’s Tale debuted to some very chilly reviews, some critics report that the chemistry between the leading lad and his leading lady may be the film’s sole saving grace. “The best part of this film is the tender performance of lovers Farrell and Findlay,” said Maryann Koopman Kelly of Paste Magazine.
Findlay, perhaps best known for her role as Lady Sybil on the hit television series Downton Abbey, recently opened up to CBS News about the love scenes between her and Farrell. Findlay said that, although the loves scenes were not necessarily the most fun to film, the chemistry does have to come naturally. “You can’t really work on it. You have to just go for it,” Findlay said. Farrell seemed to agree, calling the love scenes “technical” and sans sensuality.
Winter’s Tale, debuting Valentine’s Day, may be facing some very chilly reviews but, according to Rotten Tomatoes, 93 percent of users still want to see the flashy flick. The film has so far received an eight percent critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, earning itself a big splat on the site’s tomatometer.
By Katie Bloomstrom