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Movie review: ‘Winter's Tale’ will make you laugh, cry, and go ‘why?’

I don't know if my boyfriend and I are simply not romantic people, but when we sat for the press screening of the romance drama “Winter's Tale”, we were not expecting to guffaw heartily—for all the wrong reasons.
Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman's directorial debut, as the posters and trailers would have you believe, is about a thief with a heart of gold and a consumption-stricken rich girl falling madly in love to the backdrop of angels and demons disguised as well-meaning everymen and gritty mobsters in 1916 New York. And that somehow, thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), with the help of a rather intelligent white horse, is supposed to achieve his destiny, a miracle, in meeting and loving Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay of “Downton Abbey,” in her big screen debut). 
Problem: Lake's demon boss, and former father-figure, Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe) has the entire mob on his tail and is determined to kill him no matter the cost. Oh, and there will be some time travelling, too, as Peter ends up a homeless man in present-day New York and meets journalist Virginia Gamely (Jennifer Connelly), and her daughter Abby.
What the trailer and posters don't tell you, however, is that this horse can fly on wings of light, that the romance of Peter and Beverly is not actually the point in the story, and that Will Smith (yes, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) plays Satan in little glittery hoop earrings.

I've been reading reviews of the 760-page novel of the same name by Mark Helprin, which this movie was based on—the kind with helpful summaries that somehow manage to convey that a two-hour movie simply will not be able to contain the breathtaking breadth of it. I haven't read it at all, but now I think I want to. 
There are flying horses and angels and demons and rainbow bridges—all of which I am open to, as Helprin had 760 pages to build on his material and bide his time where he wished, so that when he finally asks readers to suspend their disbelief, they willingly do so.
In the movie, when the horse shows up to save Peter the first time, you might be able to say, okay, let's see where this is going. But when it shows up to do the very same thing the second time around—and this may be a problem of editing, of the script at large, the execution of the scene, and of the film's entire approach to pacing in general—somehow, the whole prospect simply falls into farce.
Another thing, every other character interaction somehow seemed more interesting than the romance between Peter and Beverly. This was not to say that their romance was not interesting at all—indeed, countable among the film's small miracles is the dialogue. Especially golden was Peter and Beverly's first conversation: right after he breaks into her house to rob her, unaware that she's inside; she almost immediately offers him a cup of tea afterward. Farrell and Findlay have good chemistry, the kind that somehow offsets the cheesiness of the dialogue.
But there were so many other tantalizing bits of plot and character that the film chose not to follow: how Beverly's father and Peter get along after the former's initial interrogation; how Virginia Gamely views Peter, a man out of time; what Peter's relationship is with so many side characters with a few minutes' worth of speaking lines.

I see “Winter's Tale” as a movie in two parts. The first half is heavy on the love story, while the second half (sort of, but not quite) ties together almost all the little strands of plot the first half hinted at.

There were numerous plotholes, too, but it would take a whole other review to elaborate on even the most glaring of them. Let's just say, my boyfriend and I were taking turns laughing really hard and going “Huh? Why?”
One other potential saving grace of the movie was the use of light as a metaphor, as a character, as the visual cue for when something amazing is about to happen. It, along with other magical occurrences, were reduced to mere special effects and plot trappings and scene decoration, however—unexplained rules about this alternate version of New York, where not even Peter Lake knows the rule.
Watch “Winter's Tale” if you want to have a good time with a friend or significant other, though. You'll just be laughing for all the wrong reasons, too. — KDM, GMA News
“Winter's Tale” opened on February 13 and is now showing across all cinemas.

All photos are courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.