High praise from Neil Gaiman at his blog ….
Warning: there is a SPOILER in this review regarding casting.
Last night, I went to see WINTER’S TALE, Mark Helprin’s remarkable novel, made into a film by writer (and now director) Akiva Goldsman.
Firstly: I really, really enjoyed it. Akiva took a huge, sprawling novel that spans over a hundred years and took the elements he needed from it to tell the story he had to tell. He made it small, of necessity. It’s a fantasy movie, with demons and angels and a flying horse: it contains a noble burglar, a beautiful dying pianist, an absolutely terrifying Russell Crowe, Will Smith stealing scenes as Lucifer, and New York, New York all the way.
Secondly, I’d seen a trailer or two before I went to see it. And the trailer is, well it’s wrong. It tells you it’s going to be a specific kind of movie and it isn’t that. It’s not really a love story, small l about the love between two attractive people who want to do kissing, although it may be a Love story (capital L about Love, and who and what we love, and why, and what it means for those we love to die).
If you like fantasy, or New York, or magical realism, you should see it. You really should. (You should also read the book. And John Crowley’s novel Little, Big, which was published about the same time.) The screening audience loved it.
My only qualm, cavil or beef is this…
There’s a thing that happens in Hollywood, when you hand in a script with magic in it, and the people at the studio who read it say “We don’t quite understand… can you explain the rules? What are the rules here? The magic must have rules” and sometimes when they say that to me I explain that I am sure it does, just as life has rules, but they didn’t give me a rule book to life when I was born, and I’ve been trying to figure it out as I go along, and I am sure it is the same thing for magic; and sometimes I explain that, yes, the magic has rules, and if they read again carefully they can figure out what they are; and sometimes I sigh and put in a line here and a line there that spells things out, says, YES THESE ARE THE RULES YOU DON’T ACTUALLY HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION and then everyone is very happy.
And there were places in the film where it felt like Akiva was, either because he’d been asked, or preemptively, explaining the magical rules. And I trusted him and the film and would rather have just figured it out for myself.
There. It’s a real film — it reminded me most of all of Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King…