What is perceived as and somewhat promised to be, the newest edition to your personal collection of timeless period romance films, even perhaps a future cult classic, is a most disappointing anticlimax.
The film, released in the UK as “A New York Winter’s Tale” (just in case the idea of New York in winter is so overwhelmingly attractive to UK residents that they would watch it without reading reviews), is a supernatural, fantasy romance based on the novel by the same name written and released by Mark Helprin in 1983.
The story follows the rather long life of Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), his encounter with a rich, young, beautiful but sickly Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findley), who he falls suddenly and deeply in love with and his run in with the law; depicted by the rather sinister Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). The basic run down of events is that every person has one miracle in their life that they are created for or can bestow on another and Pearly‘s job is ensure that those miracles do not happen. When Peter finds out that he cannot save his beloved Beverly, he loses his memory and ability to age and roams the streets of New York until he discovers who his miracle is meant for.
Put together a really stunning leading lady, a well known leading man, a worthy supporting cast and a wonderful setting in both period and city and you get… a dull, odd and somewhat waste of a film. It does however prove the point that “good actors often do not a good movie make”.
From the opening scenes this movie was pretty much a weird mix of fantasy, mob movie and strange romance that never succeeded in anything but making us go ‘huh?’. It is excessively hard to believe the Moses inspired beginning as Peter, as a fugitive baby, is left to make his way to shore in a model boat, or that a man can roam aimlessly around for eighty plus years in order to fulfil his destiny, or even that ridiculous, sparkly, flying horse. Okay, I liked the horse. But that is probably because I like horses not because the horse made any sense whatsoever to the storyline or the redemption of the characters. It seemed to me that the horse was there as a sort of convenient, magical and fortuitous transportation vehicle for the impossible, or at least improbable, storyline. It was more like an angel horse slash taxi slash guardian angel. Granted, it is a fantasy and don’t all fantacies have flying horses?
Whoever thought Will Smith would be an excellent, or even intimidating devil was simply delusional. Russel Crowe, who merely played an angel of the great beast, was scarier than him. Will Smith’s teeth were only entertaining, perhaps fascinating, but not scary. From a production design and costuming point of view, the film was rather pleasing. It was all very pretty to look at, albeit haphazard and the grading of the film did give an authentic look to the film and that “old New York” atmosphere.
I am still not sure if consumption (which most of understand as an old word for tuberculosis, even though she is hardly heard coughing) can be cured or even stifled by taking freezing baths or living in tents on the roof in the middle of winter. But whatever Wikipedia might tell me, the truth is that Jessica Brown Findlay looks incredibly beautiful doing it.
All in all, even though I have friends who fast forwarded it when things got weird, I managed to stay watching till the end. I am not sure why because I certainly won’t watch it again. It was just confusing, long winded and odd.
Just remember that we all have a miracle destined for someone; mine might be to prevent you from watching this film.