A New York Winter’s Tale is a bemusing fantasy drama. There are flashes of what writer-director Akiva Goldsman appears to be aiming for, but overall the film is a stupefying mess.
Former mechanic and current thief Peter Lake is on the run from his former boss. Breaking into a house, Peter stumbles across Beverley, a beautiful but sick young woman. This meeting changes the course of his life…
An adaptation of Mark Helprin’s novel, A New York Winter’s Tale features an interesting enough premise. The execution, however, leaves a lot to be desired. The intention of Goldsman is clear; he has aimed to create a romantic drama infused with fantasy and strong religious overtones. Nevertheless, the plotting is muddled and the characters are weak.
Rather than offering a measured introduction to the protagonists, action (and fantasy action at that) occurs early in proceedings. This serves to bemuse viewers more than anything else. Characters are developed slightly later in the film as relationships form. There is little to them behind the initial bluster. Peter and Beverly supposed to fall in love from their initial meeting. However this scene belies any intensity in feelings.
The problems that arise in A New York Winter’s Tale are both large and small. Pearly Soames is too caricature a villain to be taken seriously. His desire to track Peter requires a motivation which is absent in the film at least. Later in the film the audience is implored to root for a recently introduced characters without being given any real indication why they should care. On the lower end of the scale, it is inexplicable that the editor of a major newspaper would be over a hundred years old. There is no explanation for this.
Cinematography in the film is lush. Hans Zimmer’s score offers a quality that is severely lacking from the narrative and direction. Russell Crowe’s poor accent is distracting. Colin Farrell is adequate, but he and others have to contend with a poor script that elevates tired sentimentality above everything else.
A New York Winter’s Tale is amusing for the fact that it gets so much wrong. It is hard to believe that producers and actors would read the screenplay and think that it was a good idea.