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"Winter's Tale": A Thief Saves a Dying Girl, Travels Through Time, Rides a Flying Horse, Because Romance 

Wednesday, Feb 12 2014

A magic-realist love story that flitters about in increasingly arbitrary directions, Winter's Tale blathers on and on about the interconnectedness of life in a way that would embarrass even its kindred era-hopping spirit, Cloud Atlas. In 1916 New York City, Irish thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) meets and immediately falls for consumption-ravaged young beauty Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay), whom he endeavors to save from death — a romantic "miracle" that's opposed by Peter's former employer, crime boss and literal demon Pearly (Russell Crowe), who works as a minion of earring-wearing Lucifer (Will Smith). Peter and Beverly exist in a fairy tale version of Manhattan full of supernatural creatures and enchanted twinkling jewels, but screenwriter and first-time director Akiva Goldsman — adapting Mark Helprin's 1983 novel — fails to establish the basic rules governing this universe, which means that internal logic is never established and every new fantastic element and flight of angels-and-devils whimsy seems haphazard and absurd. Goldsman shoots and scores every moment for maximum import, and his cast follows suit by overacting with relish. Moreover, his script's overwrought pronouncements of love, destiny, and hope turn the proceedings laughable even before the action jumps forward to the present day, where an ageless Peter finds that his true destiny is saving the young cancer-stricken daughter of a reporter (Jennifer Connelly) — a task that involves the film's signature ridiculous sight of Farrell flying high astride his own personal Pegasus.

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Nick Schager

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