Directed by Woody Allen
You might not believe it, but Woody Allen stumbles again with his latest drama “Wonder Wheel”, starring Kate Winslet, James Belushi, Juno Temple, and Justin Timberlake. Remaining faithful to his promise of releasing one film per year, Allen’s works have been a hit-and-miss case in the last decade. Hence, if last year’s “Cafe Society” was fairly acceptable, “Wonder Wheel” is a bland exercise and a disappointing ode to Coney Island, New York.
Love, both in its reciprocated and unrequited forms, and jealousy, are the main topics here, but they never achieved a real climax or even a sense of purpose, failing roundly to boost a film that started high-powered and ended crawling.
The story focuses on two married women, Ginny (Winslet), 39, and Carolina (Temple), 26, who dispute the same man. The former is a waitress and the wife of Humpty (Belushi), a Coney Island’s carousel operator with an alcohol problem, while the latter is Humpty’s daughter, recently returned home from a failed relationship with a gangster, who now wants her dead.
Carolina reconquers her father’s heart, starts working at the same bar as Ginny, and even attends school at night. She gets along pretty well with her stepmother, who gives her all the support she needs, but their relationship deteriorates abruptly when Ginny’s lover, Mickey (Timberlake), a young lifeguard, writer and poet, falls in love with Carolina on the first moment he sets eyes on her. Moreover, he is deeply intrigued by her personality and fascinated by the past that made her a marked woman for life.
It’s not the first time, and probably not the last, that Allen sticks to this dull narrative strategy that consists in having the characters talking directly to the camera as if they were talking to you. Although effective in other circumstances, especially comedies and heist films, this removes every bit of realness a drama might have, since they seem constantly reminding you that the persons you're seeing are just fictional characters.
Ginny starts eating her heart out when the innocent Carolina asks for advice about Mickey. The charming man first denies everything to his lover, but opens up with his new friend, whom he truly loves, about the complicated situation he is.
Adopting a bitchy pose, Ginny, who also has to deal with a pyromaniac child, shows signs of a breakdown, and yet, she’s capable of everything to recover her boy.
“Wonder Wheel” gets terribly melodramatic as the story proceeds and brutally stagey by the end. The last conversation between Ginny and Mickey is absolutely ridiculous and the depleted sequences continue until the credits roll. It’s the ending of our discontentment!
Plus, the Dixie jazz tune ‘Coney Island Washboard’ by the Mills Brothers runs too often, becoming more aggravating than bracing. This wheel is a blunder… not a wonder!