Wonder Wheel Review

Wonder Wheel - Poster #1

To non-cinephile geeks, Woody Allen’s name will always be synonymous as the man whose film beat Star Wars at the 1978 Oscars. Although Annie Hall is his most beloved film, Woody Allen has been directing films for over 50 years now. At 82, he’s still going strong writing and directing his 53rd film, Wonder Wheel. Does the old dog still have it with Wonder Wheel?

Unfortunately, Wonder Wheel continues the lackluster writing and directing effort by Woody Allen. With his films essentially coming out every year, maybe it’s time for Allen to take a break and discover his creativity again.

Wonder Wheel follows the lives of four people during the bustling years of Coney Island. There’s Ginny, a former actress who now works as a waitress at Coney Island, and Humpty, Ginny’s carousel operator husband. Furthermore, there’s Mickey, a young lifeguard with dreams of becoming a playwright, and Carolina, Humpty’s long-estranged daughter who is hiding from the mob.

Wonder Wheel - Justin Timberlake

If you’ve never seen a Woody Allen film before then Wonder Wheel isn’t the film to start off with. On the surface, his films look to be a bit pretentious and a bit on the hipster side. Which is true by all accounts. For one thing, Humpty’s temper tantrums become repetitive and Ginny’s constant ramblings become increasingly exhaustive. Additionally, Mickey’s pretentious narration and monologues will irritate you as well. Again, it’s a script that’s truly full of itself.

But to his credit, Woody Allen beautifully recreates Coney Island in the 50s. It’s so animated and so full of color. The film just pops out at you. Also, the nostalgic sounds and 50s music create an atmosphere that immerses you in this world. However, the cinematography does become distracting at times. Don’t get me wrong, the cinematography is fantastic but there are times where the images overshadow the narration. In addition, the lighting has a very theatrical effect on it as well. Certain monologues bathe the actor in lighting similar to a theater play. Once the monologue is over, it goes back to normal again. It makes you wonder if Allen had this script in mind as a theatrical play but decided on making it into a film instead.

This could be a reason why Wonder Wheel is so uneven. The film setups various connections between the main characters but doesn’t do much with them. The film practically goes nowhere. Allen wastes some characters in order to focus on the relationship between Mickey and Ginny. Which would be okay if it weren’t for the fact that none of these stale characters are particularly likable either.

Wonder Wheel - Kate Winslet

Much like the film, the cast is uneven as well. Kate Winslet tries to give it her best as Ginny. She commits to the script and gives a solid performance. Though her theatricality does tend to get hammy at times. Surprisingly, Jim Belushi does incredibly well as Humpty. Like Winslet, he dives into this stale script and gives it his all. He’s probably the most humanistic character in the entire film.

If Justin Timberlake seems out of place in this film then you are absolutely correct. As much as Timberlake tries to act like he belongs, his acting doesn’t come close to the rest of the cast. Unfortunately, he has one of the biggest roles in the film. Timberlake spouting Allen’s old-fashioned dialogue is just plain awkward, to say the least. Juno Temple is a total waste in Wonder Wheel. She is set up to be one of the main characters but she’s barely in it at all.

Overall, Wonder Wheel feels like it should’ve been made into a play instead of a feature film. Even as a play, Wonder Wheel probably wouldn’t work either. There’s nothing to attach yourself to. There are no likable characters, unifying themes, or a coherent script. Not to mention, it’s incredibly boring. Maybe the old dog is better off staying with his old tricks.

Rating: 2/5 atoms

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