Woody Allen’s newest screen gem Wonder Wheel takes you to the boardwalk of Coney Island with a dramatic tone. Laced with excellent talent, a nice backdrop and sizzling storytelling, the movie lands high up in my top 10 for 2017. Whether you like Allen’s style or not, this slice of life in the 1950’s on New York’s shoreline should keep you captivated to the twisted ending.
New York University Master’s student Mickey Ruben (Justin Timberlake) tells the story while working his summer job as a life guard on Coney Island Beach. Being a student of European drama, he spins his tale as if it were a movie script. He says his characters are as big as life and the first one to appear is Carolina (Juno Temple) a cutie pie of a young lady who’s just arriving at Coney Island.
The daughter of Humpty Jablon (Jim Belushi) the Wonder Wheel operator at the boardwalk amusement park, she’s about to lay a bomb on her estranged father. Speaking of Humpty, it’s easy to identify him as his personality is larger than life and it usually gets in the way of most anyone around him. His wife Ginny (Kate Winslet), being a former actress, deals with Humpty’s rants, but controls most situations with ease. That said, she’s about to meet his daughter for the first time and Carolina’s carrying a lot of dangerous baggage.
One last notation, the film rolls out like as if it’s a stage play with many sets, but isn’t that the usual technique with most of Woody Allen’s film? What makes up for it is the acting and the nostalgia of the 1950’s. He keeps everything simple for most of the film playing out a story that starts with a situation. In this case its Carolina’s fleeing from her husband gangster after she cooperated with the police to save herself from being indicted. Two side stories include Ginny and Carolina in an unintended triangle that adds a little salsa to the mix.
Kate Winslet stirs the pot with her performance of a stressed wife who has to deal with a husband that wants to fall off the wagon every time something bad happens. Their love life has been on the rocks and she becomes an easy target for someone who pays attention to her. This is a very good role for Kate and her first with Woody Allen.
The “youngster” in the film, Juno Temple, plays the daughter who left her father because he didn’t like any of the men she brought around. Falling for the gangster was her way of getting away from him and moving on. Unfortunately it did not end up in her favor and now she’s back with Humpty and looking for another man to sweep her off her feet. I like Juno Temple as the “lost” soul who gets cornered between a bad situation and a possible golden rainbow.
But the top performance belongs to Jim Belushi as the tempestuous matriarch that has to come to grips with his life being invaded by his past. Finally on the brink of a happy life with Ginny, he can bring home the fish on his day off. However, not in tune with Ginny’s needs, he’s headed for a reality check
Wonder Wheel has been rated PG-13 for thematic content including some sexuality, language and smoking.
FINAL ANALYSIS: One of Woody Allen’s better films.(4 out of 5 stars)
Additional Film Information
Cast: Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Jim Belushi, Max Casella, Brittini Schreiber, Geneva Carr, Tony Sirico, Steve Schirripa.
Directed by: Woody Allen
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic content including some sexuality, language and smoking
Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.
Release Date: December 15, 2017
Distributed by: Amazon Studios