WONDER WHEEL – A Review by Cynthia Flores
There is no wonder in Woody Allen’s new lackluster film Wonder Wheel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of writer/director Woody Allen, always have been. I know it’s always all or nothing with his new films. Either he hits it out of the park and it's a HOME RUN or he strikes completely out! I had high hopes for this one because one of my favorite actresses, Kate Winslet, is starring in it. If it were not for her performance of the brilliant dialogue he wrote for her, the film would be a complete waste of time. If there was a way to just cut out all her scenes and edit them together just to watch as a study in character acting then I would do it. Unfortunately you can't ignore Jim Belushi, with over drawn eyebrows, doing his best Brando imitation of Stanley from A Streetcar Named Desire.
The film is told not in voiceover but by “breaking the Fourth Wall” by Mickey (Justin Timberlake), a good looking, fast-talking, early thirty something lifeguard in sector 7 of the Coney Island beach in the 1950’s. He tells us how he began an affair one rainy day with Ginny (Kate Winslet), the beleaguered second wife of a middle-aged carousel operator named Humpty (Jim Belushi). Ginny has a young son named Richie (Jack Gore) who is a budding pyromaniac. She was a budding stage actress until she lost her husband, Richie's father. Now she works as a waitress in a grimy little restaurant on the boardwalk near where they live upstairs above the firing range. The boardwalk, in all its gaudy, brightly colored, dirty fabulousness is also a character in this film. There are times it seems that they're standing in front of a green screen with Coney Island being projected behind them. Other times when they're outside on the sand, we see the emptiness and solitude parts of the beach can have.
At the beginning of the film, into their lives of unfaithfulness, and working the boardwalk enters Carolina (Juno Temple), Humpty’s long lost daughter. She enters a film showcasing lives of unfaithfulness, of working the boardwalk. It's been five years since she left Humpty behind to marry a mobster. Now she’s a marked woman running from the mob because she told the Feds information that she knew. Her father is over the moon that his baby girl is back. Ginny’s not too crazy about how hung up her husband is over his precious daughter and how he dotes over her.
As Carolina starts to rebuild her life working at the same restaurant that Ginny is working at and going to school at night (her father thinks that she's better than just being a waitress like his wife), her path crosses Mickey's. Of course, Mickey is smitten by the beautiful blonde and falls in love with her at first sight. The film then turns into a story of Ginny the spurned lover and what she does to her rival.
Now if all of this reads like it’s a cheese fest, then you can imagine how it plays on the big screen. I am really sad but Woody’s new film is a big messy flop. Don’t get me started on the two great actors, Tony Sirico and Steve Schirripa who play the mobsters Angelo & Nick out to find Carolina and feed her to the fishes. They were great in the HBO Classic The Sopranos as Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri and Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri, two of Tony’s best guys. For this film, it looks like they wore the same outfits from the cable TV show. Was this Woody's little wink to the show they were in or what? The film Wonder Wheel looks like Woody watched the classic 1951 movie A Streetcar Named Desire one too many times. For this and so many more reasons, I have to give this film a D- and not recommend it this holiday season.
Directed by Woody Allen
Selig Rating D-
Running Time 1hr 41min
Wide Release Dec 8th
Starring: Kate Winslet, Jim Belushi, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Jack Gore
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.