In 2002, Akiva Goldsman won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for A Beautiful Mind. Over a decade later, he finally gets his passion project off the ground – writing, directing and producing an adaptation of Mark Helprin’s fantasy novel Winter’s Tale. Rumour has it that Martin Scorsese originally wanted to purchase the film rights, but Goldsman beat him to it. We can only imagine what kind of film that would have been. In this reality, however, we got this.
Akiva Goldsman’s magnum opus is so bad I’ve seen it five times. Since he had total creative control, every unwise decision on display can be attributed to him. I love movies that leave me with more questions than answers, just so long as I care about those questions. I have a lot of questions about Winter’s Tale, but I don’t think Akiva Goldsman wanted me to ask them. Why on earth did he make the two main characters speak in Irish accents despite neither of them being from Ireland? Why does the female lead pretend to play the piano by just putting her hands in the middle of the keyboard and wiggling her shoulders? Why is there lens-flare all over the bloody place? Why do all the action shots last a quarter of a second and every dull conversation last forever? Why is the horse also a dog and how come he gives the best performance in the film? Beats the hell out of me, but they’re definitely questions I care about.
There is one riddle which towers over the rest – one whose answer is such a mystery it makes Inland Empire look like Baa Baa Black Sheep. Who on earth is this film for? It’s too violent to be kid-friendly, too abstract to be a blockbuster, too dumb to be an art film, too shallow to be a morality tale, too silly to be a costume drama, too tepid to be romantic, too soppy to be exciting and – in many ways – too boring to pay attention to. I say “in many ways” because I can’t stop showing it to people, and every time I do, everyone has a great time.
There are quotes and moments from this film to treasure forever. For a start, not only does Colin Farrell say “harrrrsss” instead of “horse”, he says it over and over again, all the time. Farrell is also supposed to look like a man who
a) is in his early 20s, and
b) gives a shit.
He fails at both. He’s a fine actor, but it takes a true virtuoso to disguise the regret of starring in this film. It’s a wonderful, terrible sight. More importantly, however, this movie is a window into the soul of its creator. It’s the result of supreme self-belief – of someone who refused to take notes from anyone, and who may still think they made an unrecognised masterpiece to this day. In a way, I hope Akiva Goldsman is proud of this, because if I knew I’d made a film as bad as Winter’s Tale, I’d never sleep again.