Wonder Wheel: Film Review

Naturally, given the renewed controversy surrounding Woody Allen at the moment, his latest project Wonder Wheel is being released in the UK tomorrow with no publicity or fanfare whatsoever. I’m surprised it’s even getting a release anymore, since most people probably don’t know it’s even happening. I can’t imagine anyone will go to the cinema to see it and they won’t be missing out on much – the film is something of a misfire, regardless of the director’s personal problems.

It stars Kate Winslet as Ginny, a woman unhappily married to Coney Island carousel operator Humpty (Jim Belushi) and fed up with her job at a clam shack, believing she is destined for more. She looks for escape in the arms of Mikey (Justin Timberlake), a Coney Island lifeguard, and they embark on an affair. She falls in love with him and believes they will eventually be properly together whereas he’s not so convinced, and his eyes begin to stray when her stepdaughter Carolina (Juno Temple) shows up unannounced after running away from her gangster husband.

I have been to Coney Island recently so seeing a film set in the 1950s version of it was exciting for a nerd like me who wanted to notice all the changes, what had stayed the same, etc. The setting is great, it looks amazing and the lightning and costumes are ace, but it just falls down on the two really important fronts – acting and script.

The script is too dense and wordy. Everyone talks far too much and it was unnecessary – when someone would go waffling on, I would be like ‘aaaah, we don’t need half of this!’ It was frustrating. A lot of the main talking sequences take part in Ginny and Humpty’s apartment and it feels small, claustrophobic and almost like a play. There is just so much dialogue and a lot of it is shouting and I couldn’t enjoy it.

Winslet is reliably good. She is always wonderful and always commits to every part, but her character was so annoying. I didn’t like her at all – she is shrill, jealous and waiting for a man to turn her life around rather than do it herself – but I could appreciate her acting. Belushi and Temple were fine but didn’t have moments to shine and Timberlake was, well, Justin Timberlake. He didn’t convince me he was playing a part, I felt like I was watching some ‘acting’ rather than being their character.

The characters are decent enough and the premise was interesting but it just didn’t quite work. Perhaps with more time on the script, it would have been more exciting.

Obviously, going into it, my expectations were low because it is a Woody Allen movie. Not just because of his alleged past, but because of the diminishing returns of his films of late. He churns one out every year and you can tell. I haven’t loved one of his recent efforts, but I probably enjoyed Wonder Wheel less than Blue Jasmine or Cafe Society, for example. I wouldn’t waste your cinema money.

In cinemas Friday 9th March 


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