Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake
3.5 (Out Of 5) Globes
Plot: Set amidst the amusement park at Coney Island during the 1950s, “Wonder Wheel” revolves around Ginny (Kate Winslet), who works as a waitress and is unhappily married to carousel operator Humpty (Jim Belushi). So much so that she strikes up a summer romance with lifeguard turned writer Mickey (Justin Timberlake). But when Humpty’s daughter Carolina (Juno Temple) resurfaces, and also takes a liking to Mickey, Ginny becomes more and more volatile and starts to unravel.
Review: While Woody Allen is primarily known for his intellectual characters that float around Manhattan he has always had a knack for depicting the working class of New York with a keen eye, too. In fact, in the likes of “Zelig,” “Broadway Danny Rose,” “Sweet And Lowdown,” and “The Purple Rose Of Cairo” Allen has managed to create much more well-rounded and distinctive characters that bounce off each other in a more relatable fashion.
“Wonder Wheel” doesn’t quite reach those heights, but it is always exceptionally watchable. Allen revels in shooting Coney Island, finding the nooks, crannies and nostalgia that only a Brooklyn native raised in the era would know. Its admittedly soap opera style plot is nicely juxtaposed with enough heart, humor, and characterisation to keep you invested, too, especially as the story is presented in such a way that it is always breezy and free-flowing.
It also helps that the performances are impeccable. Of course Kate Winslet is the standout, notching up Ginny’s rage expertly without it ever boiling over into melodrama, while Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake, and even Jim Belushi deliver stirring and deep portrayals with discipline.
As a self-anointed “Sopranos” connoisseur, though, my favorite part of “Wonder Wheel” was the pairing of Tony Sirico and Steve Schirripa as two gangsters on the trail for Carolina. Sure it is only brief, but seeing Paulie Walnuts and Bobby Baccala in cahoots again is enough to immediately bring a smile to the face of any devotee of David Chase’s masterpiece.
Ultimately “Wonder Wheel” ends too abruptly to be labelled as one of Woody Allen’s very best. But it delivers more than enough laughs and insight, while Allen’s vibrant collaboration with legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro adds a heat to the film that is often not present with his visuals.
But while “Wonder Wheel” proves that Allen still has a cinematic voice that can engage, considering the past accusations made against him and the current climate, you can’t help but wonder whether he should still be given the platform to even make a film.