Some people just bite off more than they can chew. This is what appears director Akiva Goldsman has done in adapting Mark Helprin’s hefty novel into a two hour film. In a tale of true love, A New York Winter’s Tale lacks a distinct amount of heart: the one thing it needs most of all.
The story follows thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) as he falls in love with tuberculous stricken Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay) after he attempts to rob her father’s house. Lake, however, is also being tracked by demon Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), who is determined to catch his former prodigy, knowing the way to the man he wants is by tracking down the dying woman he loves.
The film is smothered in fantasy: angels, demons, and the power of miracles, it all just becomes quite difficult to keep a track. The question Goldsman, and indeed Helprin asks, is simple: how far can love take you? The sentiment is there, as is the basis for an enjoyable, if not slightly over-elaborate story of love conquers all, but the New York born director has simply tried to do too much.
Farrell tries his best to salvage the tattered emotional connection between the story and audience, but there is so much going on, and so little of it explained properly [Who is that man? Why is Will Smith standing on that platform? Wait, so, is that a dog, or a horse?], that you either lose track of what is going on, or simply do not care anymore. The ending, especially, seems rushed and out of place: thrown into a film that truly loses its way around the hour mark.
A New York Winter’s Tale is the film equivalent of Dorothy’s old friend, Tin Man: It wants, and desperately needs, a heart. You can only wonder, if Goldsman had gone for quality over quantity, he might have just found one.