"Neither Fish Nor Fowl but Sometimes Foul"
WINTER’S TALE is a mystical fairy tale set in 1916 and 2014 in New York City, in a story about a young thief, a beautiful red-haired woman, a little girl, a mystical white horse, and a demon. Despite some touching, entertaining moments and some Christian references, WINTER’S TALE becomes a bit boring and repetitious and also has some New Age, pagan, humanist, and mystical elements that make for a confused, unsatisfying worldview.
WINTER’S TALE is a confused movie version of Mark Halprin’s beloved 1983 fantasy book. Some major characters have been dropped. The movie is slow, repetitious, and boring at points. The filmmakers don’t know whether to give the story a Christian worldview, a pagan worldview, or a humanist one. Much of the movie focuses on Part One of the 700 plus page book.
The first scenes tell how an emigrant couple and their baby are turned away from Ellis Island in 1895 because the husband has tuberculosis, called consumption in the movie. On the boat back to Europe, the couple puts their baby in a model sailboat they discover on the boat and let it sail back to the city.
Cut to 1916, and the orphaned baby has grown up to become a thief named Peter Lake. Played by Colin Farrell, Peter has a thick Irish brogue, and he’s being chased by a group of black-coated thugs led by a named Pearly Soames, played by Russell Crowe. In an alley, Peter comes across a mysterious white horse. He hops on the horse and escapes the thugs when the horse appears to sprout mystical wings and make an impossible leap.
The movie soon reveals that the villain Pearly Soames is not just a gangster but also a demon serving Lucifer. Peter used to work for Pearly as a thief, but decided to leave the gang. This has made Pearly very mad. He now wants to capture Peter, torture him, and kill him. First, however, Peter has to be found.
One day, while Peter is making his rounds as a two-bit thief, the white horse seems to want Peter to go into a fancy house nearby. Peter goes into the house and finds the safe, but he’s distracted by a beautiful young red-haired woman (who was introduced in a previous scene) playing a piano. The woman is Beverly Penn, and she’s suffering from a fatal case of tuberculosis. For both Peter and Beverly, it’s love at first sight, and Peter decides not to steal anything. However, he does admit to Beverly that he did come into her father’s house to steal things.
Beverly is set to go to her family’s country mansion down the Hudson River. Beverly needs the cold country air to stave off her fatal disease for as long as she can. She invites Peter to come. When Peter arrives, Beverly’s father grills Peter about his intentions toward Beverly. Peter admits he’s been a thief for most of his young life. He also admits he has no intentions for Beverly because they don’t know how much longer Beverly will live. However, Peter also confesses that he loves Beverly deeply.
One day, the mansion’s furnace almost blows up, killing everyone, but Peter saves the day because of his affinity for working on machines. This impresses the father, and he lets Peter stay, but lays down some ground rules. Of course, Peter and Beverly eventually break the ground rules and sleep together.
Meanwhile, the demon seeking to kill Peter uses his special powers to discover there’s a redhead in Peter’s life. He tracks Peter down to the mansion, but the rules in the battle between the demons and the angels, between good and evil, forbid the demon to go into that part of the Hudson River Valley. The demon hatches a plan to kill Beverly by using poison and force Peter to return to the city.
The stage is set for the rest of Beverly and Peter’s story. A narrator explains that each person gets to perform one miracle for one other person. The question is, will Peter be Beverly’s miracle, or will she be his?
WINTER’S TALE is a mystical fairy tale about good and evil, life and death, and the power of love. WINTER’S TALE has some entertaining, touching moments It is also boring, repetitious, predictable, and overlong. Finally, the worldview is not only mixed but also confusing. The movie speaks of God, Heaven, angels, and demons in some scenes. In one scene, there’s even a mention of “saints.” In other scenes, however, the movie talks about the Universe in a New Age, pantheistic, and even humanist sense. In fact, at one point, an American Indian man who became one of Peter’s foster parents when he was young tells Peter that the terms God and the Devil are just new words for ancient truths. Also, according to the movie’s theology, people who die and go to Heaven somehow become new stars in the sky. One of the goals of Lucifer and his demons in the movie is to stop so many people from becoming stars. In one scene, Pearly the demon tells Lucifer (who’s played by a goateed Will Smith in a truly bizarre role) that they’re losing the war between good and evil. He asks Lucifer to make him mortal so that he and his minions have no restrictions on chasing down Peter.
Though most of WINTER’S TALE takes place in the early 1900s, the story reaches its ultimate resolution in 2014 in New York City. A mystical event occurs that allows Peter to jump ahead into the future, but he’s lost most of his memory. Beverly has long since died, but Peter has one last task to perform. A vision of a red-haired female will help Peter find his ultimate destiny.
The filmmakers should have decided whether they wanted WINTER’S TALE to reflect a Christian worldview, a pagan worldview, or a humanist worldview. As it is, the movie’s story and worldview is too mixed up and confused to satisfy the people in any of those three camps. WINTER’S TALE is neither fish nor fowl, and some of its mysticism is actually rather foul. It also contains some foul language and intense violence, with some blood. Ultimately, however, it’s the movie’s confused, mixed worldview that makes it unacceptable and unsatisfying viewing, no matter your beliefs. This may not be the book’s fault, because, apparently, the movie has left out, or even changed, big portions of the original plot, including a few major characters that were left out, according to MOVIEGUIDE®’s research.
(PaPaPa, C, H, FRFR, BB, L, VV, SS, N, A, M) Very strong pagan, somewhat or slightly mixed and ultimately confused worldview that includes Christian themes and references, themes of good versus evil, talk about God and angels versus demons, and New Age, humanist themes in a love story about ultimate purpose, Heaven and Hell, miracles, and the afterlife, plus character tells another character that God and the devil are just newer names for eternal or supernatural/metaphysical truths, with strong moral elements of good overcoming evil; four obscenities and two profanities; strong but brief violence includes climactic fight with punching and kicking, men fall through cracked ice and drown, man turns into monster demon briefly and it’s implied he either slit a man’s throat or decapitated him off-screen, man takes blood of victim and draws an impressionistic image of a red-haired female, angry Lucifer character bears sharp teeth to threaten one of his demons, man threatens to torture another man, man falls into river from great height, gangsters chase man, character dies of poison, and little girl has a seizure; depicted fornication in one scene and the fornication is portrayed as justified; upper male nudity; alcohol use; no smoking or drugs; and, stealing, attempted stealing, revenge.
WINTER’S TALE is a mystical fairy tale set in 1916 and 2014 in New York City. A narrator tells viewers that each person gets to perform one miracle for one other person. In 1916, Peter Lake, a young immigrant thief, meets a beautiful red-haired woman named Beverly Penn. They fall in love, but Peter is being hunted by an evil gangster who also happens to be a demon serving the Devil, Lucifer. With the aid of a mystical white horse, Peter Lake fulfills his destiny; but, will that destiny include Beverly, who’s suffering from a fatal case of tuberculosis?
WINTER’S TALE has some entertaining, touching moments. However, it also becomes a bit boring and repetitious. Worse, the movie’s worldview is all over the place. Thus, despite some Christian references, the movie contains New Age, pagan elements. It also talks about the universe in a mystical way and sometimes even in a humanist way. WINTER’S TALE also contains some foul language and some intense violence. However, it’s WINTER’S TALE’s confused worldview that ultimately makes it unacceptable and unsatisfying, no matter what you believe.