At one point in Winter’s Tale, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Connelly are on the back of an angel horse, about to leap off a skyscraper and when she tries to stop him, he says to her, about the horse: “Let him do his math.” The horse then takes off, and floats on gossamer wings through the New York skyline, wheeling and spinning like some kind of beatific vision.
But, I guess, let’s start at the beginning of this, possibly the worst movie I’ve ever seen, a film so abysmally terrible, the only good thing about it is the actually, fiery, palpable chemistry between Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay. I’m going to spare you the indecency of pretending you’re going to see this movie, and speak frankly, one adult to another. There can be no spoilers where there is only nonsense, and I think you’ll pretty quickly agree with me, seeing as this was written and directed by the guy who wrote I Am Legend, The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, I Robot and Batman Forever, I mean, shall I go on?
There’s a kind of whispery, haunting voice over from Brown Findlay that informs the audience from the outset that the stars aren’t actually stars, you see, they’re souls that get to shine up there forever once their time on earth is done! Also, there is a this thing called destiny, and some important stuff about time and matter not actually existing, but that time is everywhere and we are everything and everyone is everywhere at all every times.
Colin Farrell lopes up to Grand Central Station in 2014, and wanders around the place as if it’s familiar to him. HMMMMM. But then, we are transported into the past! and whoa, at this point, less than two minutes in, I poured roughly three shots of smuggled bourbon into my soda. Matt Bomer showed up in Grand Central station, which was unexpected, but don’t worry, we won’t see him again any time soon. A foreigner with uhhh, “pulmonary” as the doctor puts it, he’s rejected from entering the country along with his wife, so they lower their baby into the river and he floats away to a better life. (Actually, these people are basically baby murderers, who in their right mind would put a baby into a river in a model of a boat, and just hope for the best?)
Cough, cough, I’b thick.
Meanwhile in… 1916? An Old Timey Time, Whatever Time It Is, Brown Findlay is suffering from consumption, much to the chagrin of her newspaper editor father (William Hurt), and while getting fitted for spectacles, gives a charming little speech about how light is all around us and light is the key to everything and you can see the universe in light, and everything starts sparkling around her. She is definitely going to die, you can totally tell.
Back to the water baby — he grows up to be Colin Farrell, and he lives a life of petty thievery until his boss (Russell Crowe) decides to kill him. But, luckily, there’s a magical horse that appears to save him. This horse just won’t quit, so Colin Farrell decides maybe to stick with the horse for a while, and the two of them start thievin’ on their own. Now THAT would be a movie, sort of like a reverse Turner & Hooch, but such glories are not to be. While breaking into houses, Farrell runs into a beautiful but sickly woman, Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay), who has consumption and a fever, and decides he’s in love with her, forever. When Russell Crowe decides to kill her, Colin Farrell saves her, on horseback of course, and they ride away to a beautiful castle in upstate New York.
Russell Crowe wants him dead! Russell Crowe is some kind of demon. He makes finger paintings with blood! He is angry that Colin Farrell is with this pretty lady, and he’s going to stop it if he can, but there’s a curse and he can’t go chasing after them as demons apparently aren’t allowed in upstate New York, however anyone who has attempted to plan a wedding weekend there can readily deny this.
Look at the everywhere that we are! We are the light in the everywhere!
Will Smith is the devil. He literally lives in a warehouse in Brooklyn and arbitrates petty disputes between humans and demons? Also he wears a blazer and t-shirt, no matter what time period it is, and you get the feeling whoever did costumes for this thing was too scared to ask Will Smith to change his clothes, so he just wore whatever he was already wearing. Crowe freaks out and wants the devil to keep Farrell from using his miracle. Oh, do… people have miracles? What? This is never explained, or maybe this whole movie is a prequel to Angels & Demons and the joke’s on us, all of us.
After a lot of events that don’t quite make sense, and really, truly do not matter at all, Brown Findlay and Farrell eventually get around to doing it, and have about one minute of the most passionless, obtrusive, obnoxiously disappointing sex that consists mostly of Farrell hovering above her motionless and the two of them smiling at one another. Disappointing only to me, I guess, since she’s so thrilled with losing her virginity that she promptly passes away after muttering something about how they’re everywhere in time.
Let’s speed this up, shall we? Next we have a funeral where her little sister, who looks to be about eight years old tries to comfort a bereft Farrell. Farrell gets in a fight with Crowe, ghost angel horse flies off, Farrell maybe dies but then doesn’t. Fast forward to the future! Which is today, in New York City and he is still alive. Farrell wanders around, trying to remember who he is, and what has happened to him. IF ONLY I TOO COULD FORGET SO EASILY. Clues, clues, clues, Farrell runs into a journalist who wants to help him, after seeing a photo of him in the past, she brings him to meet the editor in chief of the newspaper, who is — Beverly’s little sister! (But wait, wouldn’t that make her somewhere in the region of 110 years old? BE QUIET, HUMAN LOGIC, WHO ARE YOU TO EXPLAIN THE MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE WITH YOUR MATHS AND YOUR COMMON SENSE?)
Sigh, modern life is rubbish.
Colin Farrell and Jennifer Connelly must run away from the demon Russell Crowe, with Connelly’s tiny cancer-ridden daughter in tow, and they all head to an ice lake, but it’s not a fair fight! Twenty guys against Colin Farrell! Ghost horse angel horse stomps on the ice and about six BMWs and twenty guys slowly slide down into the icy water, all carefully rendered in loving, tender CGI detail. Russell Crowe fights Colin Farrell and then Farrell uses his miracle to save someone’s life, there, I didn’t really spoil anything at all. Having a lot of trouble remembering the ending. Oh wait, no, I remember. Colin Farrell flies on the back of the ghost horse angel horse up into the sky and becomes a star.
AND THAT’S JUST THE PLOT, FOLKS.
Writer and director Akiva Goldsman has made quite the career out of producing and writing some truly huge big budget films, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re really not very good. While he’s spent a majority of his career writing and producing, he’s still new to directing, and this is his first feature film. Let’s hope it’s his last. It’s based on a novel, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s too much nonsense and too little actually happening in this film to even warrant watching it, much less making it. Goldsman just rounded up all his famous friends from other films he’s worked on, and asked them for favors, I imagine. Just think about the audacity of the seemingly endless number of people who sat through every revision of the script, every audition, every meeting about production design and costumes, every editing session, every test screening, every re-shoot and say “Yes!” at every step of the way. Most of these people are just doing their jobs, but some of these people actually thought that this, this was a good idea.
Just think about that, just for a second.
It’s exhausting to think about! Millions upon millions of dollars spent, all to say nothing. No great romance, nothing memorable (beyond Russell Crowe’s bloody finger paintings and the sight of six BMWs simultaneously sinking into a lake), only nothingness and chaos. Even worse, this is nothingness parading as something worth existing, a film that believes it presents a structured worldview, and then shies away from it, over and over again. “The Universe” is in control, but there’s demons, and fallen angels, and horses that are angels, it’s just dumbfounding.
Please, just, take the two hours you were thinking of wasting on this drecky drip fest, and do something nice for yourself or someone you care about. Because there are bad movies that are fun to watch, bad movies that aren’t fun to watch and then there’s actively destructive nightmares of cinematic crap, and Winter’s Tale is somewhere in that guttery, scum pond reflection of a night sky, far, far away.
Amanda Meyncke can’t seem to catch a break these days, she lives in Los Angeles and writes about ideas and bad movies.