Winter’s Tale – What Could Have Been (part 1)

Winter’s Tale – What Could Have Been (part 1)

I had a lot to say about the movie version of “Winter’s Tale”, pretty much none of it positive.  So, it’s fair to ask, what would I have done differently?  (there will be huge, honking spoilers for the book, and if you haven’t read it, most of what follows probably won’t make much sense anyway!)

Considering that Akiva Goldsman and company made a complete hash of the book (and produced a movie that, honestly, isn’t any good on its own merits, either), and also considering that the book is often described as “unfilmable”, is there any way that it could have been done well?

In an ideal world, the best way to translate “Winter”s Tale” to film would probably be a big-budget TV miniseries, where we’d have eight or ten (or even twelve or sixteen!) hours to tell the story and bring in all the characters, subplots, etc.  Or, similarly, turn it into a movie trilogy, as was done with Lord of the Rings.

In reality, though, I don’t imagine we could hope for that.  But, with a studio that was willing to roll the dice just a little bit more than was done with the actual movie, we might be able to do a better job.  The first thing is the length.  An hour and 58 minutes (the running time of the actual film) is simply not long enough.  There’s recent precedent for longer films, though – “Fellowship of the Ring” was two hours and 58 minutes,  The final film of the trilogy was three hours and 21 minutes.

Let’s split the difference, and say that the studio lets us do “Winter’s Tale” in  three hours and ten minutes.  I think we can make a good movie, AND a reasonable translation of at least some of the main themes at the heart of the novel, in that time.

The second issue is casting.  Jessica Brown-Findlay was good as Beverly Penn; there’s no reason to change her.  Jennifer Connolly is perfect as Virginia Gamely, and, since in my version she’d have a lot more to do, we’ll keep her, too.  Russell Crowe struck me from the start as an odd choice for Pearly Soames, but, with a strong director keeping a tight rein on him, I think he works OK.

Colin Farrell has to go.  Rumor had it that one of the other actors up for the role of Peter Lake was Loki himself, Tom Hiddleston.  I say we cast him.

I’m not a big fan of William Hurt, and especially not of his anesthetized style of acting, so he goes, too.  There are plenty of actors in their 50’s or 60’s who could do a good job as Isaac Penn; we’ve really got our pick.  I don’t really object to using Eva Marie Saint as Willa Penn, or even of using her instead of her brother Harry Penn as the publisher of the New York Sun in the present-day portion of the movie.  We can keep her.

We need a new director, too.  Since we’re firmly in the world of make-believe already, let’s imagine that we can get a director who knows and loves New York, and who tried for years to make this movie: Martin Scorcese.

That’s all surface stuff, though.  The real question is, what will our movie be about, and how much of the book’s story can we coherently tell even in three hours and ten minutes?

Here’s my take: this story is about justice, and love, and the ways they’re connected, and their ability to transcend time and connect all things.  Vague enough for you?  Well, that’s the book, and that’s the story we’re going to tell, if we can.  A basic idea of the book is that all things – and all events,and all times and places – are connected.  Or, even, if viewed from a distant enough vantage point (Heaven, ultimately), there is no such thing as time.  Everything has happened, is happening and will happen, all at once (to the extent that “at once” even has any meaning in this world).  And every act is connected.  To the people trapped in the sequential and mortal world, justice is fleeting or nonexistent.  But from the far perspective, every act is connected, and justice is readily apparent at all times.  As is love, and the ways in which love connects souls together, even through what seem (to us) to be impossible distances in space and time.

How the heck do we do that on film, even with over three hours to tell the story?  We’ll get into that in the next post…


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