Burdened by a plot as saccharine as a Nicholas Sparks novel unceremoniously mashed with all the very worst clichés of teen movie fantasy (looking at you Mortal Instruments), Akiva Goldsman offers his tiresome and bizarre time travel romance A New York Winter’s Tale (2014). Opening to twinkly, glassy-eyed narration, the film’s tragic heroine Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay) informs us of how all the world is connected and that the battle for good and evil is not fought on a grand stage but through the individual actions of people. Enter Colin Farrell as Irish orphan turned master thief Peter Lake, dwelling in 19th century Manhattan.
Fleeing from a gang of thugs headed up by the literally devilish Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe, sporting yet another terrible accent), Lake becomes involved in a down-the-centuries battle with Soames over a potentially miracle linked to the gentlewoman Beverley – with whom Peter has fallen in love with. This is high magical realism of the most nonsensical variety. Crowe gives an utterly pitiful performance – complete with blarney brogue – stomping around scrying the fortunes of the universe via bowls of glittering jewels, attacking waiters when they can’t get him the food he wants, and drawing pictures with their blood. He also works for Lucifer (a well-known A-lister), who spends his days in the dark passing judgement on humanity.
Farrell offers little hope as Peter, hanging around with his magical white-winged horse (who, according to the plot, is also a dog) until he falls for red-headed beauty Beverly. When she eventually pops her clogs in her family’s lakeside mansion, by the rules of the cosmos – apparently – Peter is thrust one hundred years into the future by falling off a bridge. Yet unfortunately, when he awakes in 2014, he has lost his memory. Peter spends the rest of the film attempting to remember his past and encounters Virginia Gamely (Jennifer Connolly) and her sickly daughter. Fortunately for our hero, this leads to him being reunited with Beverly’s sister, Willa, who helps him remember his past and achieve his destiny. Or something like that.
This is an immensely disappointing debut from Akiva Goldsman, who was behind 2001’s Oscar-winning drama A Beautiful Mind. On the other hand, this is also the same individual who adapted Dan Brown’s conspiracy twaddle The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009), again with director Ron Howard. Whilst magical realism is meant to be fantastical, Goldsman had defied what precious little internal logic A New York Winter’s Tale had to start with in favour of a tiresome weepy romance, full of over-boiled mystic hokum. As infuriating as it is unintentionally comic, it would appear that 2014 may have found its first prized turkey.