A classic novel doesn’t necessarily make for a brilliant book. Just ask anybody who’s ever sat through The Golden Compass, The Bonfire of the Vanities or indeed A Winter’s Tale.
Mark Helprin’s 1983 bestseller was originally mulled for a big screen adaptation by Martin Scorsese, who dropped out after deeming the book ‘unfilmable’. It was picked up by Oscar winning Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, but the incomprehensible mess that he ultimately delivered suggests that Marty probably made the right call.
The film stars Colin Farrell as Peter Lake, who is… a person. Possibly. The film sort of drops you in the middle of the action and leaves his back story frustratingly unexplored. He has some kind of prior relationship with a demon named Pearly Soames, who very definitely wants him dead.
Soames, incidentally, is played by Russell Crowe at the tipping point of his post-Les Mis career free fall. He’s probably the most entertaining part of this movie, though for all the wrong reasons, not least one of the most distractingly terrible Irish accents ever committed to celluloid.
There’s also an inevitable love interest, played by Jessica Brown Findlay, aka Lady Sybil from Downton Abbey. She has one of those movie terminal illnesses that has no visible symptoms beyond an ability to melt snow with her bare feet and a serene acceptance of her imminent death.
After the obligatory meet cute followed by instant true love, Lady Sybil does indeed die, causing a heartbroken Farrell to live 100 years in a fugue of magical grief that briefly manifests as a really terrible Keanu Reeves wig. Also Jennifer Connelly shows up for a while, and did we mention that Farrell owns a flying horse?
If you’re struggling to follow all this, you needn’t bother. The film is a disaster, although if you can get past a deeply tedious mid-section, it does rise to some truly hysterical levels of absurdity. We haven’t even talked about Will Smith showing up as Lucifer, or the strong suggestion that Crowe’s character is actually a snowman.
In this week’s episode we do our level best to unpack it all, before admitting defeat with some drinking game ideas, listener reactions and sequel pitches. If you enjoy the show, hit subscribe to receive a new episode every Monday morning.
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Next week, we conclude our Christmas-ish mini season with a returning guest and a Japanese animation that is decidedly not a children’t movie. Until then, happy listening and remember, Russell Crowe was a genuinely good actor once…