Winter’s Tale is a film that has all the ambition but none of the execution. Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman makes his directorial debut with this fantastical fairy tale misstep, and he enlisted Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams to craft the lush score that accompanies it. Hans and Rupert have worked together in the past on many projects, and honestly this was a breath of fresh air to hear Rupert behind something other than an Adam Sandler vehicle. What we have here is a score that has tons of wondrous elements. There are delicate nuances of budding love, deep lush strings, impending danger and is all wisps together for a wonderful journey. However there just seems to be a lack of focus behind it all that prevents it from really pulling together a meaningful emotional journey. The film does have a truly fantastical plot that includes Lucifer, Lucifer’s henchman, a guardian angel horse, reincarnation and love to weave it all together. So this is indeed a “tale”, and I think Hans and Rupert successfully approached it that way.
You can almost imagine the music saying “Once upon a time...” as we get the story under way, and what follows is a story that will take you to some wonderful places. The music has a gentle side to it, but at times can be harsh and aggressive. The piano is featured prominently in the score, and the melodies do a wonderful job of painting the characters in the music. The score contains some big swells and large moments as we move along the journey, which do a great job of pulling you in. Since this story is in an essence a fairy tale, the music does tend to get melodramatic. At times the music pushes extremely hard, and then at times pulls really far back. This back and forth created a lack of focus for me, and as a result affected the emotional flow of the journey here. When the music becomes grand and lush with a sense of ethereal mystery is really when the score is at its best. You truly feel lost in the music, you feel the sense of danger and the stakes. But it’s as a whole journey where by the end you don’t feel like it was as smooth of a ride as it could have been. All if the issues can be chalked up the film’s pacing and structure, but that does affect the score and it does affect Winter’s Tale.
Winter’s Tale isn’t the hopelessly romantic fairy tale that the trailers are making it out to be. You have a story with love, death, life, and the devil. The music can be wondrously lush and romantic, but also aggressively threatening. It’s all part of the story though, and it is a very great score. It’s just that the pacing can be awkward at times, and the dramatic structure isn’t built in a way that will really evoke the emotional response you were hoping for. Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams have done a very admirable effort here that is definitely worth exploring. Especially since it’s a score that feels fresh and different than what we’re normally used to hearing from both composers lately.