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Winter's Tale (2014)

tomatometer

13

Average Rating: 3.6/10
Reviews Counted: 134
Fresh: 17 | Rotten: 117

Winter's Tale tries to retain the grandiose sweep of its source novel, but fails to fill it in with characters worth rooting for or a sensible plot.

10

Average Rating: 4.1/10
Critic Reviews: 29
Fresh: 3 | Rotten: 26

Winter's Tale tries to retain the grandiose sweep of its source novel, but fails to fill it in with characters worth rooting for or a sensible plot.

audience

45

liked it
Average Rating: 3/5
User Ratings: 23,912

My Rating

Movie Info

Set in a mythic New York City and spanning more than a century, "Winter's Tale" is a story of miracles, crossed destinies, and the age-old battle between good and evil. The film stars Colin Farrell ("Total Recall"), Jessica Brown Findlay (TV's "Downton Abbey"), and Oscar (R) winners Jennifer Connelly ("A Beautiful Mind"), William Hurt ("Kiss of the Spider Woman"), Eva Marie Saint ("On the Waterfront") and Russell Crowe ("Gladiator"). "Winter's Tale" also introduces young newcomers Ripley Sobo

Jun 24, 2014

$12.6M

Warner Bros. Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (134) | Top Critics (29) | Fresh (17) | Rotten (117) | DVD (1)

On a purely narrative level, Winter's Tale missteps early and often. Its earnestness is its downfall, resulting in opportunities for unintentional humor.

February 14, 2014 Full Review Source: ReelViews
ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

We never come to understand the magic that keeps Farrell looking like a member of My Chemical Romance for 10 decades. We never know why consumption makes women sexy.

February 14, 2014 Full Review Source: Grantland
Grantland
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's so filled with high-flown blather about love, destiny and miracles that there's no room for enchantment.

February 14, 2014 Full Review Source: Orange County Register
Orange County Register
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If only there was less mush and more meat in this stew.

February 14, 2014 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Winter's Tale is preposterous twaddle. Use it as a date movie only if you don't love the one you're with.

February 14, 2014 Full Review Source: Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It might all make more sense to fans of the book. But you shouldn't have to have read the book to be able to see and enjoy the movie.

February 14, 2014 Full Review Source: Associated Press
Associated Press
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Exquisitely awful. I was reminded of M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water, in that both are attempts at building a magical fantasy world by someone who has no clue whatsoever how to go about the task.

June 23, 2014 Full Review Source: Aisle Seat
Aisle Seat

This is an adaptation that simply doesn't have much of anything that is engaging about it, leading to two hours that end up being more of a slog than the celebration of life and love it should have been.

June 23, 2014 Full Review Source: Examiner.com
Examiner.com

"What the hell did I just see?" That was my first comment to the studio representative after I screened "Winter's Tale." Allow me to save you two hours. of your life:

April 11, 2014 Full Review Source: MediaMikes
MediaMikes

One can only hope this story works a lot better on page than on screen.

March 10, 2014 Full Review Source: HeyUGuys
HeyUGuys

Unashamedly romantic, it is perhaps a little too convoluted to appeal to the most devoted audience for unashamed romance, the teenage girl.

March 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Irish Independent
Irish Independent

...quite striking and engrossing...

March 5, 2014 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

A fine book fights gallantly to escape from its straitjacket, but eventually lies down and allows itself to be trampled underfoot by bad ideas.

February 28, 2014 Full Review Source: Irish Times
Irish Times

Fails with such absolute sincerity that pointing out its incompetence feels mean-spirited.

February 26, 2014 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

For all of its lofty ambitions, A New York Winter's Tale emerges as a hugely disappointing experience.

February 24, 2014 Full Review Source: The List
The List

Findlay narrates in huge chunks of religiose voice-over. "Nothing has been without purpose - nothing," she concludes. Well, perhaps not nothing.

February 23, 2014 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

'Winter's Tale' may not be the easiest film to follow, but it's one of the most visually stunning.

February 22, 2014 Full Review Source: ReelTalk Movie Reviews
ReelTalk Movie Reviews

A flaky romantic fantasy that spans three time periods and is eye-wateringly ludicrous in each of them.

February 22, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Talk
Movie Talk

A fairy tale concept enlivened with average special effects, a plight predicated upon purportedly epic affection rendered with the most rote and unearned of emotion, and a tale supposedly larger-than-life but lacking in enthusiasm or investment.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Trespass
Trespass

This is a film written, produced and directed by the same person, and the lack of perspective shows.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: SFX Magazine
SFX Magazine

Goldsman clearly doesn't know who he is making this movie for.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: sbs.com.au
sbs.com.au

With an unbelievable romance, huge leaps in logic and a messy narrative structure, there's little to recommend about this film.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: FILMINK (Australia)
FILMINK (Australia)

A-list stars and gorgeous photography aside, this is the kind of eye-rolling, fairy tale folly that gives Valentine's Day a bad name. Your sweetheart deserves better.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Spectrum (St. George, Utah)
Spectrum (St. George, Utah)

Unfortunately, the film's magical- realist approach comes off as kitsch and preposterous.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Independent
Independent

If these actors felt they owed Goldsman a debt, they've paid it in full.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

The fact that this magical romance has been retitled A New York Winter's Tale in the UK tells you what the filmmakers think of the audience: we can't be trusted to get anything on our own.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Contactmusic.com
Contactmusic.com

Audience Reviews for Winter's Tale

This is not a true story. This is true love.

Mediocre Movie! Swimming somewhere in the reams of quite lovely footage assembled by Goldsman and his cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, there's a great movie with great ideas. Once in a while, it bursts through - in the shadowy, dank dungeon of a demon's lair, ruled by Lucifer himself; or the snow- swept sparkle of a moonlit night - but, more often than not, it turns into Winter's Tale: an emotionally distant romantic drama that goes for lush, sweeping depth but comes up curiously cold and myopic

New York City is subsumed in arctic winds, dark nights, and white lights, its life unfolds, for it is an extraordinary hive of the imagination, the greatest house ever built, and nothing exists that can check its vitality. One night in winter, Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), orphan and master-mechanic, attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks the house is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the love between Peter, a middle-aged Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a young girl, who is dying.
August 14, 2014
MANUGINO
Manu Gino

Super Reviewer

When I saw the trailer for this I thought this looked pretty good, and very different. While it is different, it didn't really work for me. It's very melodramatic and cheesy. But worse of all, it takes itself way too seriously. Had this movie had a real sense of humor, I think it could have been very good. It's hard to summarize, but it's about angels against demons, and it takes place over a century. The cast is good, but they've all done much better. In time, I can see people growing more fond of it. Hell, maybe another viewing or too and I would change my opinion. But based off my one viewing, I didn't care for it. Emily didn't really like it either, but she usually isn't into the movies with magic and stuff. I'd say the only movie that you could compare to this, in a weird way could be "Legend". But that is much, MUCH better. Good for a one time watch, but most people may not finish it.
August 4, 2014
Everett Johnson

Super Reviewer

Winter's Tale manages to be an enthralling drama that if you're looking for a mindless romantic drama, is worth seeing, but is a film that could have been better as well. Although I did like it, the film just gets a bit too confusing at times, I guess you have to suspend any logic here to enjoy, and if you do that, then you might find the film, mindless entertainment, which in the long run is exactly that. I wanted a film with a bit more depth to the story, and the idea here is quite good, but the story does fall short of its potential, and it leaves a bit to be desired. The cast do what they can to make this a pleasant experience, and like I said, it is, if you leave your brain at the door. The cast are entertaining, but at times, some aspects of the film feels strained, and it tries to outdo its ideas, which makes the story suffer a bit. Nonetheless, Winter's Tale is fun for what it sets out to do, and is worth a look if you have nothing else better to watch, just don't expect a grand romance film, as you'll be disappointed. The idea is great, but the script feels a bit strained, and the ideas never really materialize into something you can truly sink your teeth into. But if you're looking for a pleasant timewaster, Winter's Tale is good, yet never great. One might think how great the film could actually have been if a bit more effort could have been put into the story to really make it a standout dramatic picture. Enjoyable, but flawed, Winter's Tale is one of those movies that just is worth checking out, not in theatres, but on TV or rental. Colin Farrell is good here, but has made far better films, however despite this, he makes the film much better, and I quite liked him in the lead, as well as Russell Crowe. Entertaining viewing if you have nothing else to watch, Winter's Tale is one of those movies that makes you want a bit more out of the film.
May 16, 2014
TheDudeLebowski65
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

Every now and then you get to witness a special movie that doesn't so much offend as it inspires, and what it inspires is a question you grapple with during the entirety of its run time, mainly - How did this get made? At any point, did the producers or actors or anyone stop, take a moment to reflect on the movie they were participating in, and think, "Wait, what is going on here?" Bad movies made by hacks are easy to shrug off because, well, hacks don't know any better but bad movies (see: InAPPropriate Comedy, or better yet, bleach your eyeballs first). With Winter's Tale, there are people who should know better, people that have been awarded Oscars. These people should resolutely know a terrible movie while they're making it. Maybe they did. Look deep into their eyes.

In 1918, Frank Lake (Colin Farrell) is an orphan long abandoned by his family so he could have a better life in America. He hasn't taken this message to heart. Frank worked as an expert safecracker under the employ of local crime boss Pearly (Russell Crowe), and Pearly hasn't taken kindly to Frank leaving. Frank is able to escape Pearly's goons and finds love with Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a wealthy heiress afflicted with consumption. Pearly doesn't want Frank to get away because Pearly is really a demon in the employ of the Devil (Will Smith, yes you read that right). In the battle of good versus evil, Frank and Beverly appear to be at the focal point.

I have to give writer/director Akiva Goldsman some credit for making an unabashedly earnest movie in an era of irony and ready-made snark. His goopy romantic fantasy longs to exist in a simpler era, but even then Winter's Tale would fall apart on many levels. Its sheer unbending corniness is both a blessing and a curse. Magic realism is one thing (check out 2001's Amelie as a how-to guide), but what Goldsman seems to be going for is a modern fairy tale (our maiden locked away in her tower, true love's kiss, etc.). The film wants the audience to fall under its spell but instead will likely elicit numerous unintentionally hilarious moments; I was laughing to myself throughout, trying to comprehend all of the hokum and poor decision-making (Will Smith as the devil?).

Let's begin with the fact that the movie is an obtuse fantasy that feels like it makes up its plot and its rules as it goes along. Bleeding fantasy and fantastical creatures into the everyday world is a marvelous conceit but it needs finesse and careful rule building. Otherwise it doesn't so much feel like a story with a sense of internal logic as it does a bedtime story that can always just create a new shortcut or extension. The very first few minutes of the film will already push your credulity to the test. We see an adult Peter on the run from Pearly and his goons and all of a sudden he runs into... a white horse. Ah, but this is no ordinary horse, this is a magic flying horse, and Peter flies away to live another day. Yep, within minutes, we're given a magic flying horse. No groundwork. Worse, the horse just randomly appears when the plot demands, and I think the horse is supposed to represent the side of God in this cosmic battle between good and evil. Whatever, there is a magic flying horse. From there the film gets even cornier. It's the type of movie that posits the stars are really human beings, and so, in the end, rather than having our hero ride off into the sunset he (spoilers be damned) flies off into space on his magic flying horse and he BECOMES a new star, resting beside the star meaning to represent his beloved (never mind that these stars would be millions of light years apart). If you can read that sentence without rolling your eyes then congratulations are due.

Another problem is this massive time leap that creates far more plot holes. After Beverly succumbs to her illness, which I might add happens literally SECONDS after she's done having sex for the first time (Colin Farrell killed her with his penis), the film leaps forward to present-day. However, Peter was given immortality through Beverly's miracle. I suppose you could view miracles as a byproduct of sex. At first glance, this almost seems like a cruel gift; your love is dead and now you have to live forever without her. For no discernible reason, Peter also suffers amnesia, because, really, why not? All he does day after day, presumably for... 90 years, is sketch the same image of a redheaded girl in public places. In the intertwining years, why hasn't evil Pearly picked up on the fact that Peter is still alive? He's only been sketching the exact same image. Also, how does Peter even support himself? How does he feed himself? Who are his friends? These are the questions that arise when you take this foolish route with the plot. It could have been avoided with a simply Rip Van Winkle-style hibernation or time jump. Another problem is that Peter grew up with the 90 years of history, meaning he should know what things like the Internet and library cards are. He's not a man out of time. The solution to Peter being confirmed is to seek out the still-living Willa (Eva Marie Saint, nice to see you again). The problem with this is that Willa should at least be over a hundred years old if you do the math. If the purpose of the leap forward was to just save another character we hadn't seen previously, why does it have to be 2014? Why couldn't it just have been 1940 or any other earlier period?

And the central romance between Frank and Beverly is just so boring you wish Frank would move on to someone new. Presumably they fell in love at first sight, which just so happened to be when he was in the process of robbing her home. Ah, but you see, her love redeems him because that's really the whole role of the sick love interest in movies, to make the other figure a better person through this shared experience of grief. So in this regard it's no surprise that Beverly lacks defining characteristics outside of her ailment. She plays the piano and falls fast for Farrell's eyebrows, but that's all we got here. The entire second act of the film follows their abbreviated courtship, but there's no real moment where you buy into their romance. Like most of the film's storytelling, we're told something is and expected to buy into it 100 percent without flinching. They're in love, what more do you need? Well, some interesting characters would be a start.

I'm fairly certain that all of these actors were doing Goldman a favor by appearing in this nonsense, but only Farrell (Saving Mr. Banks) walks away favorably. He is the best person onscreen who burrows into their character, ignoring the absurdity of every moment, yearning so hard that you almost want to give in. You won't. Many will best remember Findlay as the Lady Sybill on TV's Downton Abbey (she was also the reoccurring ghost on the BBC's Misfits). Here she gets little else to do but smile and give those knowing looks that all afflicted characters give, as if their illness has opened up the secrets to the universe for them. Crowe's performance will likely draw up comparisons to his maligned work in Les Miserables, a performance that wasn't as bad as advertised theater snobs. This performance, however, is as bad, as his Irish brogue seems to overtake him and he comes across like a hotheaded big bad wolf. Jennifer Connelly's appearance isn't even worth mentioning as it is that slight beyond the fact that she's the mother of a terminally ill child (you really thought the movie had any sense of restraint?). The film has numerous well known actors for flashes, like Kevin Corrigan, Kevin Durand, Graham Green, Matt Bomer as Frank's immigrant father. One suspects their brief time was either a sign that the screenplay evolved as production went or that they were repaying a debt.

I will say the only saving grace in this entire blunder is the cinematography by Caleb Deschanel (The Passion of the Christ). Even when the cheesy special effects take flight, Deschanel makes sure the images are worth watching, having a special skill with the cool hues of the wintry color palette. I wanted to at least credit one redeeming aspect.

The inconsistent plotting and rules, the corny and overly wistful characterization, the overwhelming silliness of every single moment, Winter's Tale will spark far more guffaws and derision than plaudits. It's a movie that bludgeons you with its unrelenting maudlin nature disguised as romantic fantasy. The source material is beloved by some but it all comes across as nonsensical twaddle onscreen. Goldsman's screenwriting credits run the gamut from award winning (A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man), to big budget to notorious stinkers (Batman & Robin, Lost in Space). It's hard to judge the man's talents with such a wide range of quality. However, I can question the finished results of Winter's Tale and openly wonder what in the world convinced Goldsman to cash in all his Hollywood cache to direct this dreck. I'm almost tempted to encourage people to watch Winter's Tale just to try and make sense of it themselves, to try and take in 118 minutes of earnest bad decisions. Whether it's the magic flying horse, the 100-year-old news writer, or the fact that we're dealing with a bad guy named Pearly, or Will Smith as Lucifer, but sometimes Hollywood unleashes a disaster that begs to be seen.

Nate's Grade: D
February 17, 2014
boxman
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • A New York Winter's Tale (UK)
  • Un amour d'hiver (FR)
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