In 1950’s Coney Island a problem arrives in the seaside lives of waitress Ginny Rannell (Kate Winslet) and husband Humpty (Jim Belushi). Humpty’s estranged daughter Carolina (Juno Temple) is on the run from her mafia husband after talking to the police and needs somewhere to hide. Add this to a burgeoning affair with a lifeguard / wannabe dramatist Mickey Rubin (played by Justin Timberlake) and Ginny’s once mundane world starts to slowly unravel around her…
…catches director Woody Allen in between his fondness for ensemble drama and greek tragedy.
‘Wonder Wheel’ catches director Woody Allen in between his fondness for ensemble drama and greek tragedy. Full of literary allusion and scenic nods to Tennessee Williams, the lives of its characters are domino stacked in a story where the pieces are all too predictably marked to fall. Add to this Justin Timberlake’s direct narration and Kate Winslet’s increasing stress as Ginny and you can clearly hear Woody Allen’s voice ingrained on the lives of his characters. Long-term Allen themes like paranoia and hypochondria pepper his character’s dialogue, sadly robbing them of any opportunity to grow beyond his script.
That said, ‘Wonder Wheel’ is a welcome return for the legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storraro. His colourful, signature lighting style washes over the each character’s mood as they did in ‘The GodFather. So whilst this drama is mostly predictable in its candy-floss narrative, it at least has the distinct virtue of being a visual treat to look at.
In terms of its acting, Kate Winslett is ever dependable as as Ginny and John Belushi delivers a more-than-decent turn as her husband Humpty. However it’s only in Winslett’s later scenes that the movie ever threatens to abandon its postcard origins and go for something more thoughtful.
However, with its story of small lives that comically come apart at the seams, ‘Wonder Wheel’ is a film that sadly winds down to a predictable stop. Neither realistic enough to be dramatic, nor absurd enough to be comic, this is a movie that sadly slips between colourful whimsy and stiff theatricality. Soon to be washed away on a cinema shedule, it’s a movie that looks great on the big screen but is more likely to find its audience online or on TV.