Starring Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Jim Belushi, Jack Gore
Justin Timberlake’s character describes himself as “poetic by nature”. He is of course taking on the Woody Allen persona in the filmmaker’s new flick. The poetry fades quickly in Wonder Wheel as it opens on the most beautiful images of 1950’s Coney Island. A smorgasbord of color for the eyeballs, you don’t know where to look at first, but eventually you realize it’s at Oscar winner Kate Winslet (The Mountain Between Us). In just a matter of minutes, Wonder Wheel welcomes the audience back in time with beautiful imagery only to be put on hold while Jim Belushi laments for a good five minutes, killing the vibe of the movie. The casting and chemistry between the characters is unbalanced, while the lackluster narrative and disappointing performances borrow from previous Allen work.
“I’m having an affair with her, while cheating on the affair with her”, Mickey (Timberlake) a lifeguard gleefully confesses to the audience. Ginny (Winslet) is an unhappy, twice married housewife who waitresses during the day and scolds her pyro-driven young son (Gore), from a different relationship at night. “Humpty saved me”, she tells anyone who will listen. It’s her excuse why she is married to the alcoholic, large bellied carney worker (Belushi). She has no other options or daydreams until Mickey appears all suave and tempting on the beach. Making their little house above the amusement park more complicated, Humpty’s estranged daughter Carolina (Temple), married to the mob, turns up looking for shelter from the bad guys.
Winslet and the Prince of Pop lack chemistry, and it’s much more than their age difference, it’s acting experience.
The first thing you notice about Wonder Wheel is the colored light. It’s beyond natural, it’s surreal. The glow is always behind Winslet, making her tinted red hair glow like fire. The ever-changing lights from Coney Island morph a room from bright red to deep blue, which could almost signify how quickly moods ebb and flow in this house. What begins as an illuminating technical achievement, quickly starts to feel more like a gimmick as the movie starts to lose steam. Allen and his cinematographer Most of the dialogue in the film is shouted (argued) rather than spoken. Like a collection of monologues from characters that we never find a reason to care about.
Winslet and the Prince of Pop lack chemistry, and it’s much more than their age difference, it’s acting experience. Winslet wavers in and out of Blue Jasmine territory, but this character isn’t written with the nuance of Jasmine, nor can Winslet find the right balance that Blanchett mastered. In a weaker year, The Hollywood Foreign Press might throw Winslet a nomination because having her at The Golden Globes is always fun. But Wonder Wheel can’t come close in caliber to the embarrassment of riches from female actors this awards season. Allen’s latest film is careless and detached, which is a shame given the sets and visual style he attempted.
‘Wheel’ of recurrence plagues Allen’s latest which is unique in style but not on substance.