Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Winter’s Tale vs. In Secret, two period romances with a little bit a death thrown in the mix.
PremiseThe over-the-top romantic period pieces to get you through this winter are In Secret and Winter’s Tale. Both feature attractive leads, forbidden love, and British accents, but which is more likely to tug at our heartstrings and encourage unrealistic romantic expectations? Set in 1916 Manhattan, Winter’s Tale stars Colin Farrell as lowly robber Peter Lake, who falls for the enchanting Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), the wealthy heiress he is trying to rob. To further complicate matters, Beverly is dying of an incurable illness and Peter is being man-hunted by an evil Irish gangster (Russell Crowe). Pretty basic stuff, until the film unexpectedly leaps to present-day Manhattan, in which Peter hasn’t aged a day (he seems to be reincarnated, and rather confused). Naturally, he seeks to bring back his deceased love, with the help of Jennifer Connelly. In Secret skips the supernatural mumbo jumbo and sticks to the pure, unadulterated romance. It’s 1860s Paris and the gorgeous Thérèse Raquin (Elizabeth Olsen) is set to marry the dull and unsexy Camille (Tom Felton) at the behest of his controlling mother (Jessica Lange). However, when the seductive painter Laurent LeClaire (Oscar Isaac) comes to paint Thérèse’s portrait, a passionate affair and diabolical murder plot ensues. We prefer our romantic entanglements in historical Paris and devoid of magical properties. Advantage: In Secret
ChemistrySure, Jessica Brown Findlay and Collin Farrell are both aesthetically pleasing, but there’s something about these two as lovers that just doesn’t sit right. Perhaps it’s the 13-year age difference, or our sense that Brown Findlay is too pure and ethereal for bad boy Farrell. Whatever it is, we don’t buy it. On the other hand, the brief flashes of carnal activity between Elizabeth Olsen and Oscar Isaac in the trailer for In Secret? Those we buy.Advantage: In Secret
Old-Timey OutfitsIn 1916 New York, ladies wear bonnets to sleep and floor-grazing dresses in the daytime. Gentlemen wear bowler hats and fur-trimmed overcoats. 1860s Paris is 1860s Paris. Everybody knows sex scenes are all the more impassioned when they are preceded by the undoing of a corset. Advantage: In Secret
Pick Up LinesIn both of these films, the leading males seduce their fair maidens with sometimes-eloquent language. Despite leading a life of crime, Winter’s Tale’s Peter Lake favors a subtle and sensitive approach. When Beverly inquires about the best thing he’s ever stolen, he smoothly responds, “I’m beginning to think I haven’t stolen it yet,” referring, of course, to the young lady’s heart (awwwwww). In In Secret, Laurent LaClaire prefers a more direct approach: “Unbutton your blouse.” A little presumptuous, don’t you think? Advantage: Winter’s TaleThe One Standing in their WayWhat’s a good romance without a cold-hearted naysayer standing in your way? In Winter’s Tale, this role is filled by Pearly Soames, Peter’s former boss who proclaims that he “wants him dead and to stay dead” (a not-so-subtle allusion to the fact that Peter can in fact come back from the dead). In In Secret, there is the chilling Madame Raquin, who forces Thérèse to marry her son and later aggressively accuses her of having a hand in his death (which, of course, she did). Yes, the thought of Jessica Lange meddling in one’s love life is quite terrifying, but we’d take that over an Irish mobster out for blood. Despite his unthreatening name, Pearly can unquestionably do more damage. Advantage: Winter’s Tale
The VerdictDespite Winter’s Tale’s lovey-dovey pick up lines and its bloodthirsty Irishman, when it comes to romantic period pieces, what matters is the chemistry between the leads; and judging by these trailers, Farrell and Brown Findlay have got nothing on Olsen and Isaac. Plus, the supernatural elements in Winter’s Tale completely underwrites the best part of any good romantic film: that it could happen to us. Winner: In Secret