Jeff Tells Liz What Happened in “Winter’s Tale”

Dear Liz,

Yes, I know it's not a true story, because it's not a documentary.

Yes, I know it’s not a true story, because it’s not a documentary.

If you’re anything like me, you remember seeing the ads for Winter’s Tale and thinking, “So, Colin Farrell is in love with that girl from Downton Abbey, but then he gets reincarnated in modern day New York? Or something?” The ads certainly suggested romance, and then some vaguely supernatural buggery-boo, but mostly they made no damn sense, and the film only grossed $30 million worldwide on a $60 million budget.

Why were the ads so cagey? This is a romance that opened on Valentine’s Day — why not give us some indication of why Farrell winds up in present day New York, or what Russell Crowe is doing in the movie at all? Could it be that the studio simply wanted to indicate sweeping romance while hiding the fact that this movie is BUGFUCK INSANE??? Liz, this film is so crazy that I started taking notes about 1/3 of the way through because I knew I had to tell you about it. And now I will. [Oh, thank god. –Liz]

We open in 1895 New York, where Matt Bomer, who I very recently saw getting brutally stabbed to death on American Horror Story: Freak Show, is being denied admittance to the United States because he and his wife have consumption. Reasonable! But Bomer and wife reeeeally want their infant son to be let into America. Fortunately, Bomer spots a large model ship, plops his baby inside, and scoots it towards the shore. Good thing that model ship was actually seaworthy! That this plan is successful is the least crazy thing about this movie. [Oh, my god. –Liz]

Cut to 1916. The baby has become grown-ass man Colin Farrell, and he’s being pursued by Russell Crowe and his army of bowler-sporting thugs. Turns out Farrell’s a thief and Crowe was his mentor, his Fagin to Farrell’s Artful Dodger, if you will. Crowe’s gang has Farrell cornered, when suddenly a white horse appears out of nowhere and jumps a 15-foot-high fence with Farrell astride him. OH COOL, MAGIC HORSE. Always useful to have one of those! (Seriously, though, Farrell’s ass would be dead 100 times over in this movie if not for this magic horse.) The horse, it turns out, is a protective spirit, known as “The White Dog of the East.” So why isn’t it a dog? Well, we’re told, sometimes it appears a horse. Sure, man. Look, let’s just get on with this.

Ostensibly, Crowe is pursuing Farrell because Farrell tried to quit the bowler hat gang, but there’s another reason. Turns out Farrell has a “miracle” inside him that Crowe would like to prevent from occurring. What’s that? Why would a New York gangster care about miracles? Oh, it’s because Russell Crowe’s not just a gangster, he’s a literal DEMON FROM HELL WHO WALKS NEW YORK CRUSHING MIRACLES AND TURNING MEN’S SOULS TO EVIL. This little bombshell is dropped when Crowe goes to a restaurant and orders an endangered owl off-menu. The waiter tell him they don’t serve owl, so Crowe flashes a demon face, bashes the waiter’s brains in, and then draws a pretty picture with his blood. TOTALLY NORMAL ROMANCE MOVIE STUFF. [:( 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 –Liz] The blood picture portrays the back of a red-headed woman, which leads Crowe to believe that Farrell will be performing his miracle on said woman. Solid demon detective work.

Liz, I tried to find a picture of his demon face, to no avail.

Liz, I tried to find a picture of his demon face, to no avail.

I should also mention that Crowe is doing an Irish accent for this role. It is a terrible accent. Just godawful. Russell Crowe must have some serious balls to have gone to set every day and do such a terrible accent right to Colin Farrell’s face.

Anyway, Farrell understandably wants to leave town, what with DEMON HORDES pursuing him, but the horse/dog convinces him to do one last robbery. YOU HEARD ME. (I guess this makes the horse the same horse from Over The Garden Wall. Liz, you should watch Over the Garden Wall so you can get that reference.) [WILL DO. –Liz] Inside said house he finds the actress who plays the youngest daughter on Downton Abbey, whose name is Jessica Brown Findlay but who I will simply refer to as Downton. [As well you should. –Liz]

Downton is dying of consumption, but not the kind of consumption known to medical science. No, it’s a kind of consumption where she never coughs or seems to feel any pain or distress, but instead she’s just really warm all the time. Like, if she goes outside barefoot, snow melts under her feet. So it’s not consumption so much as very gradual human combustion. Anyway, Farrell and Downton fall in love basically instantly, because it’s that kind of movie.

Eventually Crowe’s forces show up to Downton’s mansion. How did they know which woman to target? Because one of Crowe’s guys noticed she had red hair, like Crowe’s blood painting. He didn’t see her with Colin Farrell or anything, he just thought “I know where a red-haired girl lives,” and Team Evil went all in. Apparently there is only one red-haired girl in all of New York. Either that or demons are dumb as rocks but exceedingly lucky. Farrell shows up on his magic horse to save her, but things look bad until the horse runs over a cliff, sprouts some GOSSAMER WINGS OF LIGHT, and gently delivers them to the ground below.



Turns out the horse isn’t just a horse, it’s also a freaking PEGASUS. Which, I think you’ll agree, makes it EVEN LESS OF A DOG. On the animal scale it goes dog, horse, pegasus. As you can see, pegasus is further away than dog. Why is it never a dog? Wouldn’t it be great if it was sometimes a dog? What would pull heartstrings more than a cute-ass dog THAT CAN CHANGE TO A PEGASUS AT WILL. Sorry, I’ll stop fantasy booking this movie. [I… I just can’t. PEGASUS DOG HORSE. –Liz]

Farrell and Downton escape across the lake, and Crowe can’t pursue them because he is confined to the five boroughs due to some old demon dispute. Handy! Fortunately, Downton’s family has a summer home in the area where they can lay low. It’s here where Farrell meets Downton’s dad, played by William Hurt, and has the CRAZIEST CONVERSATION IMAGINABLE. Here it is:

(Note: some words are spelled phonetically.)
HURT: We’ll have wine tonight. Will claret be all right with you?
FARRELL: Anything. But.. don’t you pronounce it clar-ay?
HURT: No. Claret. We pronounce the ‘t’. Just as in ‘fillette.’
FARRELL: ‘Fillette?’ I always thought it was ‘filet.’
HURT: No, it’s ‘fillette,’ just as in ‘wallet.’ You don’t pronounce it ‘wall-ay’ do you? You say ‘wallet.’
(long, awkward pause)

WHAT IS HAPPENING I FEEL LIKE I’M LOSING MY MIND. [Also, wait, it’s NOT ‘filet’ without the T? How class-less I am. –Liz] Anyway, Farrell also meets Downton’s little sister Willa, who shows Farrell the house’s Princess Bed. Willa insists that if Farrell kisses Downton in the Princess Bed, she won’t die. I’m inclined to believe her, since at this point I will believe literally anything these characters say.

Meanwhile, Crowe goes to see “The Judge” to see if he can get his demonic limitations lifted. Turns out The Judge is Lucifer, you know, the ACTUAL CHRISTIAN DEVIL. In a wonderful twist, Lucifer is played by WILL SMITH, the ne plus ultra of stunt casting. Like seriously, holy cow. Lucifer is introduced lounging on a dingy mattress, reading A Brief History of Time, a book that will not be written for like 80 years. It’s PRETTY GREAT. [HOLY SHIT. –LIZ]

Long story short, Crowe’s demon human resources request is denied, so Crowe goes over Lucifer’s head and asks some other demon to poison Downton for him. The poisoner is played by Finn Whitrock, which I only bring up because he’s the guy that stabbed Matt Bomer to death on American Horror Story! Small world! Small, murderous world.



Finn Whitlock (a fun name to say!) successfully poisons Downton at a ball, and when they get home, she and Farrell have sex. As they bask in the afterglow, Downton is basically like, “Well, that was nice. Gotta go!” and dies right in front Farrell. It is HYSTERICAL. It’s like he killed her with his dick. This gives me my much longed-for excuse to link to that comic where Spider-Man killed Mary Jane with his radioactive semen. AT LAST. [I know what this moment means to you, Jeff, and I’m just honored to be a part of it. –Liz]

Farrell races Downton down to the Princess Bed, kisses her corpse, and NOTHING HAPPENS, so what the hell kind of magical movie is this, anyway?!? That little girl straight-up lied to you, Colin Farrell! OR DID SHE?!

Farrell, despondent, returns to New York, only to be confronted by Russell Crowe. Farrell instructs his horse to fly away, which it does, looking exactly like the old TriStar Pictures intro in the process. Then Crowe proceeds to beat up Farrell USING ONLY HIS HEAD, which I admit is pretty bad-ass. Farrell falls in the water, then washes up on shore with AMNESIA. Oh, and he also came down with a strong case of IMMORTALITY, because skyscrapers fade in on the skyline and now we’re in 2014 and Farrell is drawing chalk art of Russell Crowe’s Downton portrait. 100 years does nothing for his memory, however. Keeping Farrell alive 100 years really seems like God’s cheating in this Good vs Evil confrontation, but I guess Satan does have more manpower.

One day, Farrell meets Jennifer Connelly and her cancer-ridden daughter, who jog his memory enough to head back to Union Station and find some of his old shit. Unfortunately, regaining some of his memory sets off Russell Crowe’s Farrell-Sense, and he begins his hunt anew. Oh, Russell Crowe is still alive, too, but you probably figured that out, since he’s a hell demon and everything. “We may have killed the wrong redhead,” Crowe muses. It took Russell Crowe 100 years to realize there is more than one redhead on planet Earth.

Jennifer Connelly and Farrell become fast friends, and Connelly takes him to her job at the New York Times. Guess who’s her editor there? If you guessed ‘Downton’s 100-plus-year-old sister,” then congrats on rolling with this movie’s punches. [Like, identical twin sister? Eh, I’m sure. –Liz] It turns out that Farrell wasn’t meant to miracle Downton, she was meant to miracle him, making him love her so much that he couldn’t die. That’s less of a miracle and more of an ironic punishment, but nobody said God was nice.

Crowe meanwhile, knows that killing an immortal guy will probably be difficult, so he checks in with Lucifer again. “I want him turned into snow!” he demands. Sure, man. Turns out that in order to kill Immortal Farrell, Russell Crowe has to put his own immortality on the line in their fight to the finish. Lucifer has seen movies before and tries to talk him out of it, but Crowe is too headstrong. Man, Lucifer was just trying to do you a solid, Russell Crowe! Why is Lucifer being so nice? “You get used to people,” he admits, which is probably the nicest thing Satan is capable of saying. “I’ve grown accustomed to your face!” my wife chimes in. So Crowe becomes mortal for his shot at Farrell. [It’s important to mention at this moment that I just added the “Akiva Goldsman is the worst” tag to this post, because HE IS THE WORST. –Liz]

Farrell has dinner at Jennifer Connely’s place, and her adorable daughter gets a seizure. As she’s lying down, Farrell notices the daughter in the exact same pose as Crowe’s redhead portrait (with a red headscarf in place of red hair) and is like, “OH SHIT YOU’RE MY ACTUAL JAM.” But then it turns out the daughter does have red hair, it’s just that it’s super short because of the chemo she’s been getting for her cancer? So the red hair in the vision was a scarf but the girl has red hair anyway, I guess because God works in dumb and mysterious ways. Anyway, on learning the daughter has cancer, Farell’s like OH PS I KNOW ABOUT PRINCESS BEDS. Crowe shows up, and everyone runs to the roof to find THE MAGIC WHITE HORSE AW YISS. They fly the hell away to Downton’s old summer home because shit yeah, magic horse.

Team Evil shows up at the frozen lake anyway, since being mortal means Crowe no longer has any jurisdiction issues. “I suppose you know what to do, Horse,” says Farrell. [HE. DOES NOT. WAIT. OH, MY HUGH JACKMAN, I GUESS. HE DOES. –Liz] The horse takes off, smashes back down on the ice, and dooms all of Crowe’s men to a watery grave. The horse is BAD ASS. They should have called this movie Badass Pegasus Who Is Also A Dog Maybe.

This leaves Farrell and Crowe free to have a good ol’ fashioned fist fight. In my dream universe, Farrell and Crowe shared a gentleman’s agreement to hit each other for real, like they were UK wrestlers. Anyway, Crowe kicks Farrell’s ass until some starlight gleams off the ice, distracting Crowe long enough for Farrell to STAB HIM IN THE NECK. As he’s struggling with Crowe, holding a blade in his throat, Farrell throws a quick “Thanks, stars!” smile to the heavens. “Thank you, stars, for allowing me to kill this man via neck stabs. Surely heaven approveth of such an act.” Russell Crowe dies and turns to snow, just like how he wanted Farrell to die. Poetic justice? WHO CAN SAY.

Connelly’s daughter chooses this exact moment to die of cancer, but Farrell gets her to the Princess Bed and she wakes up again. MIRACLE MANAGED. His miracle performed, Farrell jumps on his dog horse and shoots up into the heavens and become a star or some nonsense. So, in short, the God of Winter’s Tale is one who will keep a guy alive for a century to save one girl with cancer, but can’t be arsed to do anything about 9/11. I’m not theologian, but that’s pretty weird.



Posted on November 17, 2014, in All the Spoilers, Movies, Other People Telling Liz Stuff, Spoiler Alert! and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Sigh. I love the book this was based on. Love it. And I’m so glad to see that my instinct to not watch this movie, despite all the temptations, was accurate. Because the book has a whole bunch of wacky stuff in it, but nothing like this. NOTHING. Liz, Frank, read the book. You may hate it, but I promise it will at least make a certain amount of literary sense:)

  2. AHHHH!! HAHAHAHA. OMG. Ok- so. um. I read this book back in 2000/2001 and then several drafts of the (then) screenplay. Apparently Scott Rudin had a serious lust to see this movie made, and somehow it ended up at Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Films shingle. I want to say that Helprin (Mark, novelist) tried to adapt the screenplay himself- it was… a bit unwieldy. Like 200 pages. Red Hour was still on the project when Akiva got interested. The main reason Scorcese passed (I assume) was due to the 1800s Gangs O’ New yawk stuff, which ran breast with his own project… I honestly couldn’t believe the movie got MADE when I saw a poster for it. And with “Kiki” takes himself-uber-seriously writer/director? Oh, I am SO glad y’all watched this for me. It sounds like an amazing trainwreck.

  3. This is so awesome. I love how – in the face of true craziness – Jeff just struggles onwards.

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