Published on March 9th, 2018 | by voxx0
Out: 9 March
Length: 101 minutes
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Jim Belushi, Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake, Kate Winslet
Plot: Coney Island in the 1950’s, a lifeguard (Timberlake) tells his story of a middle-aged carousel operator (Belushi), his wife (Winslet) and a visitor (Temple).
“Woody Allenisms” isn’t a real phrase, but it could be one as a way to describe the latest yearly installments of Allen’s dramas, from the opening credits playing an old timey soul track, through the period setting, whether it’s Paris in 1927 (‘Midnight in Paris’) or 1930’s Hollywood (‘Cafe Society’), and the stunning production design that warmly invites you to the setting. ‘Wonder Wheel’ is no exception to the rule. Set in Coney Island during the 1950’s, the setting may look familiar to Allen veterans, as this is the location he used in 1977’s ‘Annie Hall’ and 1987’s ‘Radio Days’. The seaside theme park here is beautifully photographed, having the titular big wheel bang in the centre, dominating the sky. Richly plastered in period detail, and the beachers dressed in 50’s swimming attire, it’s a place full of vibrant colours. That’s not the only thing that makes it an Allen film; his characters are also surrounded in his style of person – from a middle-aged carousel operator (Belushi), his beleaguered wife who contemplates her unfulfilled dreams (Winslet) an estranged daughter, (Temple). And then there’s the narrator, a life guard who dreams of becoming a playwright like Eugene O’Neill (Timberlake).
As always with Allen, there’s a big name cast to play these parts, all fulfilled with stunning performances, especially the ever-so-good Winslet who yet again gives her best as a starved waitress who dreams of accomplishing more with her life. Given his usual strategy, this one is no stranger to the Allen we know, coming off the back of his acceptable ‘Cafe Society’, it seems here and with most of his later career films he’s on autopilot, predictably filling them with tropes that are acceptable to him. That’s normally fine, but here it’s wasted.
Like the film’s titular big wheel, the plot goes around in a circle. There’s a love-triangle that he’s done better before, there’s a wasted gangster plot and there’s a handsome starving artist telling his story. If you were to play cards with Allen, this one pulls the same cards he’s played before in many better ways. Sure, he plays them well here, approaching the love triangle trope like he has done before as he goes through the frantically distressed woman plot (beautifully performed by Winslet), but given his previous record he can and has done it all better.
Albeit, ‘Wonder Wheel’ isn’t all bad as the cinematography is marvelled by beautifully vibrant colours and the period costumes are glorious as always. It may not be the worst of his later films, but it still might be time for him to try new wheels.
VERDICT: ‘Wonder Wheel’ is plastered in a terrific cast and boasts stunning visuals, but due to a clunky script retreading tired storytelling it misses the overall wonder.
- By Corey Denford