I’ll let Winter’s Tale (rated PG-13 for one sex scene and violent elements) speak for itself. Here is some of the dialogue: “We rise up into the sky to become stars ... the universe loves us all equally … the possibility of destiny remains.” There’s a lot more where that came from in the movie’s two long hours.
The story, based on a novel by the great Mark Helprin, holds promise as a movie plot. Peter Lake (Collin Farrell) is the son of immigrants who were turned away from America around the turn of the 20th century; as the parents sail away, they put little Peter in a tiny boat to send him back to New York, Moses-style. Once grown up, Peter finds himself caught in a battle with a demon (Russell Crowe) and his master Lucifer (Will Smith, who fails to be the least bit evil). Peter learns he is on a mission to perform a miracle, a mission that spans a century. The story has potential, but the screenwriter and director Akiva Goldsman fumbles the moviemaking process from beginning to end.
One example of the terrible, awkward screenwriting: the heroine Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay) meets Peter and says, “I have consumption and I’ve never been kissed on the mouth.” This is a sentence I cannot imagine anyone ever saying, even if you have consumption and have never been kissed on the mouth.
Other little things show the fingerprints of an amateur: Beverly is playing Brahms on the piano, but as the notes crash down to the lower octaves, her hands stay on the upper octaves. Later, Beverly’s father Isaac Penn (William Hurt) sits down to talk with Peter about his intentions toward Beverly. Peter explains that he’s madly in love with Beverly, then as they go to open some wine he and Isaac begin arguing about whether you pronounce the “t” in “fillet” and “claret.” Isaac points out no one says the “t” in “wallet,” and we cut to a new scene. The purpose of this dialogue remains unclear, as does the director’s vision for this movie.