Film Review: 'A New York Winter’s Tale'
Opened: 21 February 2014 (UK)
Cast: Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Eva Marie Saint, Russell Crowe and Will Smith
Director: Akiva Goldsman
Producers: Akiva Goldsman, Marc E. Platt, Michael Tadross, Tony Allard
Stepping away from his usual fare of candid science fiction, writer, director and producer Akiva Goldsman brings this old fashioned fairytale to the big screen for what in most countries was an unsurprising Valentines Day release. Sadly this cynical release date would never be enough to cover up this poorly crafted vision of what at its core is a sweet love-at-first-sight romance. On the run from a demonic gangland boss, master thief Peter Lake breaks into one last house as he makes his way out of New York to a new life. Discovering the young lady of the house, Beverly Penn, home alone as she recovers from an episode brought on by her terminal condition, the two become immediately transfixed by one another. Although terribly cheesy this obsession the two share is beautifully brought to life by the adeptly charming Colin Farrell and the magical Jessica Brown Findlay. Their chemistry is unmistakable and it is testament to both actors that they are able to manage this amongst what is otherwise a chaotic and unconvincing yarn.
What little there is of a plot is mostly manifested in the pathetic excuse of a pantomime villain, Pearly Soames, who possibly at some point in production development cut a bone chilling figure of terror; but then Russell Crowe was cast and he became a twitching imbecile with a ridiculous rictus grin. On top of his mad-as-a box-of-frogs performance Crowe’s laughable gangster is besieged by unnecessary minor sub themes aimed at building his demonic reputation, but ultimately only adding to the chaos and confusion. Possibly the most bewildering of these elements is Will Smith popping up unexpectedly for a couple of scenes to explain of what the hell is going on. The phenomenon of the pointless A-list cameo is now gathering a cult status and this is just another to add onto recent accomplices 12 Year’s a Slave (Brad Pitt) and American Hustle (Robert DeNiro). Unlike these other examples however Smith’s turn as Soames’ boss is oddly placed and tediously lacklustre! These dubious casting decisions stem from Goldman working with both actors previously on vastly more superior projects, so it is a shame that a full casting process was not undertaken to fill their roles. Having said this, the production does not package or deliver most of its characters convincingly anyway, where fewer ideas and a more stylised approach would have helped. One last exception to this is the erudite and graceful Jennifer Connelly who briefly brings the film back on course with grounding gravitas as journalist Virginia Gamely, before it is once again brought hurtling back into crazy town by Crowe and his gang.
A New York Winter’s Tale clearly has loftier intentions than putting bums on seats for a few weeks in theatres; however it does not even possess the cinematic collateral to deserve this basic level of attention and could well be in line for a Razzie or two come early next year. Leaving audiences bewildered at some of its more bizarre aspects and the complete absence of any coherent reasoning for what they are being asked to process, this is a movie that will either quietly disappear one winter’s night, never to be seen again, or be hoisted up for the masses to point and laugh at. There was a great deal of potential in this story but a determined effort to overcomplicate it and apparently cut corners on its development have left a half made shoddy picture which is sure to be on no one’s Valentine’s Day wish list next year. The most honest and damning indictment that can be levelled at A New York Winter’s Tale is that if you are looking for a romantic movie right now then Endless Love, a lowest common denominator teen romance by numbers, would be a much better choice. Harsh, but true!
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