Stale And Flat: Our Review of ‘Wonder Wheel’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - December 07, 2017
Stale And Flat: Our Review of ‘Wonder Wheel’

Some stories were just never meant to turn…

In what plays out in a rather uncomfortably autobiographical way, Woody Allen’s latest; Wonder Wheel is an awkward yarn that feels like it was mounted by a community theatre troupe.  With poor casting choices and overly nostalgic set design it actually marks one of the genuine low marks of Woody Allen’s career.

It’s the story of four characters whose lives intertwine amid the hustle and bustle of the Coney Island amusement park in the 1950s: Ginny (Kate Winslet), an emotionally volatile former actress now working as a waitress in a clam house; Humpty (Jim Belushi), Ginny’s rough-hewn carousel operator husband; Mickey (Justin Timberlake), a handsome young lifeguard who dreams of becoming a playwright; and Carolina (Juno Temple), Humpty’s long-estranged daughter, who is now hiding out from gangsters at her father’s apartment.

While the pace that the man keeps is admirable, Allen’s Wonder Wheel is a very pretty but overly sentimental mess that rehashes so much of what he has done before in a fairly uninteresting and messy fashion.

You get the feeling that Allen was trying to romanticize the time period so much of the material here played in an over the top and borderline cheesy fashion.  Working again with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, they paint a lush and colourful backdrop of the dying age of the Coney Island boardwalk that is full of style but without any real soul.  The bulk of the characters are just generic pastiches of people with no real depth to them and feel like he’s rehashing various chapters in his own personal life in one way or another.

While it all looked very pretty it was far too flat feeling like a stage play setup rather than a character drama with any kind of value.  It’s a genuine phone in job, which to be fair he only pulls about one every ten years so he is exactly on his usual pace but in the modern landscape of movie making it’s not quite fair that every ten years he churns out only one truly good film, a couple of decent ones, with the rest ranging from decent to flat out terrible as there are dozens (if not hundreds) of filmmakers out there who could churn out some great stuff on the small but still healthy budgets that he works with.  It’s time for Allen to maybe slow down a bit and develop his stuff a little better before he heads to the screen with it, not every story that falls out of his brain needs to be told.

It’s not something that I would label as a point of pride; being the best thing in a bad movie but Kate Winslet does what she can to make her world weary Ginny into a character that we can get emotionally invested in as she’s immersed in an environment that she just can’t handle being a part of any more.  She pulls off equal parts tragic and sexy, making the best she can of this ultimately messy material.  Jim Belushi was overacting to the point that it was actually a little embarrassing, I know his character was supposed to be a boorish mess but his performance was so on the nose it was cringe worthy and was shouting his lines like the husband of someone who got roped into ruining his weekend and being in his wife’s community theatre production of Streetcar Named Desire, instead of watching football with his buddies.

Justin Timberlake in the defacto Woody Allen self portrait role was trolling the film so hard because he knew damn well how awkward, stilted and borderline offensive his dialogue was as white guy playing the awkward Jew with all the terrible stereotypes intact.  While Juno Temple rounded out the ensemble playing the naive and awkward pretty young thing that leans on her thousand yard stare like it was going out of style.

I was truly hoping that Kate Winslet could save this one, but Wonder Wheel was just a flat and stale mess of a film that never really should have gotten out of the starting gate.

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David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.