Winter’s Tale: A Review and Rant
(image credit: http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/RCvaJE3ex68/Russell+Crowe+looking+fierce+large+scar+down/c9ABJfKd6iE/Alan+Doyle)
A note on spoilers: I spoil the fuck out of this movie in this review. Way I see it, the book has been out since 1983, so the plot is fair game. If you don’t want spoiling, go see it before reading. I will give you a spoiler of my review: this movie sucks, go watch Stardust instead.
Alan Doyle sold me on seeing Winter’s Tale a year ago when he first tweeted about filming it. I like him as a singer and an actor, and usually he’s in movies with Russell Crowe who I also really like. Winter’s Tale stars Crowe, along with Colin Farrell’s sexy Irish accent. Matt Bomer from White Collar (which I’ve been talking about on the podcast) is in there too, as are Will Smith, William Hurt and Jennifer Connelly–all actors I enjoy. The line up looked fantastic so I was really excited to see it.
The movie, released in February 2014, is based on the novel of the same name by Mark Helprin. I’ve never read the book, and thus begins my rant: Why do they keep making movies out of complicated books?
Winter’s Tale is a bad movie. It’s full of amazing actors, based on what appears to be a really cool story, and it is absolutely awful. The book is a long, complex work of fiction–the story is told across centuries and encompasses many characters. All I could think about in the theater was how much I wish I had read the book instead of seeing the movie. They seriously need to stop ruining good books this way.
Basically, each scene felt truncated so the movie fit a two hour length requirement. You could tell these scenes were supposed to be gravely important to the plot. Magical horses that were actually dogs (but never explained particularly well), time travel, creepy demon faced people and other random plot elements kept getting introduced, but not in a way that made sense. It felt like someone took the book, chopped out the most important elements, and put it all back together without any context or depth at all.
The “future” portion of the movie is the biggest victim of this phenomenon. After about an hour I stopped caring about anyone new in the movie. The people I did care about were gone, replaced by new people I didn’t even know. I bet this works great in the book where you get hours upon hours of build up to things changing.
The real tragedy for me is that I can tell I would love this book. I love creepy demon face people, time travel, and magic horses that are actually dogs! The story of this movie is totally lost because you just don’t care enough. They don’t have enough time to build the drama necessary for the big reveals and important deep thoughts you’re supposed to be having.
Acting in this movie is very good for the most part. No big surprise, given the actors. Sadly, women in this movie get the shaft (ahaha). Winter’s Tale does not pass Bechdel, let’s just get that out of the way. Jennifer Connelly, because her story line is shit, is basically reduced to being a sobbing bore for all of her scenes. She’s so stereotypically “a mom of a sick kid” it’s sexist and then some random dude shows up and she’s like “yes, yes I will travel on your magic horse with my sick daughter to um, wherever you say because I clearly need a man to save me.” Thank goodness for penis, right? The other women fare no better. One dies to further plot (after literally killer sex) and the other is a five year old. Her adult self is shown later in the movie, and she still acts like a five year old despite her accomplished career.
The plot, which is intricate in the book, boils down to some trite bullshit about faith and destiny and blah blah. If you want to see a movie that is similar in concept but actually good and also based on a book, check out Stardust. That one was much more coherent and a heck of a lot of fun. The book is probably better, though.
So, Hollywood–let me tell you a thing. I really like movies. I even go to the theater and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one left so my opinion should matter to you. Stop making movies out of books this complex. You’ve ruined good books like Cloud Atlas, Harry Potter anything after book 3, anything Stephen King ever wrote longer than a short story, and countless others. Do you know how many Dark Tower fans cower in fear every time someone says a movie deal is in the works? It can’t be done, not in the way it needs to be. And even if it can, it shouldn’t.
There are millions of better books to be made in to movies. See Old Man’s War, for example–primo movie material if you ask me. Also, see many short stories by great writers. I also choose to believe that there are many wannabe screenwriters making good art out there. How about you see what new stories they can create for us?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go worry about how badly Hollywood is going to screw up Horns. Go watch Stardust, you won’t regret it.
PS: Alan Doyle was great and had a really cool scene, not to mention an epic mustache. Will Smith was also delightful and there were not NEARLY enough people of color in the movie. Grr.