Monday, March 3, 2014

The Cinema File #323: "Winter's Tale" Review


Based on what I'm told is a very popular modern fantasy novel of the same name, the new film Winter's Tale was evident ally a bit of a passion project for its writer and director, Akiva Goldsman. Writer of both A Beautiful Mind and Batman And Robin, Goldsman already seems like a bit of a risky bet to be entrusted with a movie Martin Scorcese thought unfilmable, especially considering it marks his directorial debut. Add to that his willingness to apparently remove some 300 pages of story from the movie including many characters important to the narrative, and any fan of the book would have more than enough cause to worry. I can't speak for them, but going into it cold so to speak, I can only say that I may never know how much it strays from the source material, as my mind is so broken by the experience of watching it that I'm pretty sure I've forgotten how to read entirely.


To describe the plot of Winter's Tale is to descend into madness. To even make the attempt would be an insult to the many writers who have for years honed their craft and developed the ability to tell a story with the interest of having that story make any kind of sense. The maxim of "Show, Don't Tell" is immediately turned on its head in the first five minutes of this movie, as what little we are given in terms of the mechanics of this magical world are explained through the most elusive and impenetrable voice over at the beginning and end of the film, telling us everything and nothing all at once, and showing us, well, something, or rather a great many things, none of which come together into anything cohesive or even recognizable. Oh, and did I mention the flying horse, whose also a dog?


There are angels and demons, I think, and a cosmology that asserts the stars are actually the souls of the dead, but only those souls who have passed on their miracle to another person. Everyone has a miracle, you see, which they give to other people without realizing it, some function of destiny or love at first sight, that is unless they are stopped prematurely by sinister men in bowler hats working for the Devil (a character created entirely for the film, played by Will Smith if you can believe it). These evil immortal beings live to spread evil and hopelessness, and also collect gemstones, but not for currency, but simply because they like shiny things. I did mention the horse thing, right?


Sorry. I could go on and on explaining the loose and disjointed mythology of this movie, and without seeing it you might accuse me of disingenuously leaving out the connective tissue that makes all of this meld together into a heartwarming fantasy worth watching. Please, go see it yourself and try to find what I'm missing. If it weren't complicated enough with all the poorly explained rules, a world referred to by Goldsman as one of "magical realism," half way through the movie, the story jumps ahead 100 or so years into the future to the present day, a time gap bridged by the inexplicably immortal protagonist as he tries to find his own way to becoming a star next to the woman he loved, who he killed with his penis. Wait, I forgot that bit, let me go back.


No, sorry...I can't do it. Just trying to keep all this in my head is starting to drive me insane. To think that this was the version of this story that was felt to be the most relatable and simple enough to be adapted, it boggles the mind as to what the rest of the book contains that was too out there to include. With the requirements of literature being as different as they are from cinema, I have no reason to doubt the claims of those who have read the book and assure me that it all works in print form, but there is no denying that it simply doesn't work as a movie. Watching how epically this thing fails at every opportunity, its tempting to absolve Goldsman of at least some of the blame, but he should have known he wasn't the man for this job. I don't think there is a man for this job, or if this was ever a job that needed doing. The fucking horse has wings made of light!


Actually, you know what? No, I'm not done. Fuck that flying horse. You don't get to just do that. You don't get to throw out something like a flying mystical horse with light wings implied to be a Native American spirit animal whose said to also be a dog but never shown to ever be a dog, and then still call yourself a movie. At one point, the demons are chasing the two lovers prior to him killing her with his penis, and they get away by flying to an area where the demons can't go. Why can't they go there? Because the rules say so. WHAT FUCKING RULES? When did you ever fucking establish any rules for fucking anything movie? Is the Devil traveling through time, and only so he can wear anachronistic shirts? Why does the bad guy have to become mortal to kill the other guy when he managed to do it just fine before, and why does he turn into snow when he dies? How does the fucking crystal magic work? Why is anything anything?


If people turn to stars when they die, where the fuck did the star come from that became our sun. You know, the thing that allowed for all life on Earth to come about in the first place? Kind of a chicken and the egg thing if you ask me. And what about all those stars that collapse and turn into black holes, sucking all matter into themselves including any possibly life bearing planet in their vicinity? That's a pretty dickish thing to do if you're a dead human soul living in space as a giant miasma of incandescent plasma. Are black holes like the Hitlers of star people, or are they just dying again, and if that's it, do they become human again? And what do the stars do all day just sitting out there? When two stars of past lovers are sort of near each other, aren't they still like billions of light years away from each other. And its not like they can fuck anyway. They're stars! What about quasars, are they anything?

Okay...sorry again. Didn't mean to let this get away from me this much. The point is...well, I forgot actually. Go see Winter's Tale. Or don't. I don't care anymore. I need a hug.
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