Ginny (Kate Winslet) dreams of the movie star life, a bittersweet medicine that temporarily relieves the pain of her life that seems to be passing her by. Married to a theme park worker, Humpty (Jim Belushi, chewing scenery but effective), Ginny is trapped in a never-ending cycle of robotic family life. She cooks, cleans, deals with her troublesome son, and briefly departs into the fantasy land of the movies. Living next to the Boardwalk in Atlantic City doesn’t seem to help.
When two people, Mickey (Justin Timberlake) and Carolina (Juno Temple), enter Ginny’s life, the seemingly boring life that Ginny dreaded suddenly becomes full of drama.
Woody Allen’s latest, Wonder Wheel, left me dreaming about what I could have gotten done with the two hours I spent watching this tiresome melodrama. A film where all the characters have faults and thorns sticking out of their sides, which means nothing will end well, and the movie will end coming to a sudden halt before the credits roll.
Allen has shown that there is still some life in his delivery with Midnight in Paris, but here he fiddles with temptation of the heart and a fairy tale landscape that is easier to admire than love. You’ll leave talking about how old school world builder Vittorio Storaco painted a pretty picture with the 1950’s Coney Island, but wonder if it deserved a better movie to live inside.
Winslet imbues Ginny with an earnest spark plug, but her performance is wasted in the “going nowhere” predicament of the screenplay. It’s a pleasure to see Belushi back in the saddle again, but he does too much chewing and breathing to actually produce a quality performance. Allen fared better with Andrew Dice Clay in Blue Jasmine. Temple doesn’t have much to do, and Timberlake is overpowered by the burden of the most dialogue in the movie. The role doesn’t suit him, and his character is the narrator and big player in the film, so it hurts the film.
There’s also a creepy vibe that sneaks up and pokes the viewer throughout the film. Allen is no stranger to the sexual abuse scandal rolling through Hollywood, and a relationship in the film rides pretty close to the uncomfortable side of the room, also damaging the film’s impact. The epidemic searing its way through Hollywood is bound to affect many filmmakers and their work, and here it’s hard to not think about Allen’s tricky past when Belushi and Temple share a scene.
There’s a short-lived delight in seeing Sopranos alums Tony Sirico and Steven Schirripa play a couple hoods looking for Carolina, but overall, the joy when watching this fumbling drama is fleeting.
When the last scene played out and the credits rolled, I wondered what the objective was. What did Allen want to tell us here? Was there a goal? I felt nothing.
I don’t think you will either. Wonder Wheel is a disappointment.