Akiva Goldsman’s track record is a spotty one, chockablock with commercially successful films full of formulaic writing and manipulatively sentimentalized emotion. Or just plain hogwash: “Batman & Robin,” anyone?
Sure, he won an Oscar for Ron Howard’s “A Beautiful Mind,” as middlebrow a choice as you could get in a year where “Shrek,” “Ghost World,” “Lord of the Rings 2” and “In the Bedroom” were its competition.
Having made his pile adapting the best-sellers of Dan Brown to the screen, here comes Goldsman with what is obviously a passion project: a film based on Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel, “Winter’s Tale,” an exercise in magical realism set in past and present-day New York. Helprin’s book is a tad precious, but Goldsman has no trouble shmaltzing it up in a way that undercuts the magic, while calling attention to the massive effort he needs to create the kind of wizardry that Helprin can do with a sentence or two.
The story itself sounds silly in outline form: A thief named Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), about to be killed by a gang of thugs led by a guy named Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), is rescued by a white horse that appears magically and whisks him away one day in 1914. On the run from Pearly, Peter robs a mansion on Central Park – and falls in love with a consumptive young woman named Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay, the late Lady Sibyl on “Downton Abbey”) who lives there.
They fall so deeply in love that the vibe alone attracts Pearly, who seems to have certain hellish powers. So Peter and Beverly escape on his horse, to her family estate up the frozen Hudson River.
This review continues on my website.