Wonder Wheel

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In many of my Roman Polanski and Woody Allen reviews, I mention the problems people have with these guys. I decided this time with Allen, I wouldn’t mention the fact that he married his step-daughter, a girl he had known since she was 10. Then I noticed a lot of other critics bringing up Allen in their reviews, simply because he said it was “sad” what happened to Harvey Weinstein. Again, I’m not going to go into all that, but I will say something. For so often, Allen did stories about older men having affairs with much younger women. Now it seems he does movies that involve older women, that are…well, scary. Maybe this is why Woody liked younger women. He’s obviously very frightened by females that are older, more intelligent, and have been through the hard knocks of life. He thinks they get involved in love triangles and want to murder people.

It might be hard for some people to understand why Kate Winslet would go on and on about Weinstein and other problems in Hollywood, but she has no problems doing a Polanski and Woody film. Who can blame her, I suppose. It got Cate Blanchett an Oscar for Blue Jasmine (the highly overrated movie). And Winslet is terrific in this, Allen’s latest. Had the dialogue been better, it would’ve gotten her a nomination.

It’s Coney Island in the ‘50’s, and we get to see a lovely beachside vacation spot (shot beautifully by Vittorio Storaro). Justin Timberlake plays the lifeguard, that yearns to be a playwright. He breaks the fourth wall, for some reason…explaining to us what’s going on. Unless you’re going to be as funny as Matthew Broderick was doing this in Ferris Bueller — it probably should’ve been scrapped. It’s also the only film performance I’ve seen of Timberlake that was bad. He was sorely miscast.

Ginny (Winslet) is working a hard job as a waitress at a crab shack, and has gotten bored in her marriage with Humpty (Jim Belushi, doing the dumb, working-man character). She used to dabble at having an acting career, and meeting Mickey (Timberlake) has gotten her excited about life and the arts again. She’s trying to keep Humpty away from the bottle, but that gets harder with the arrival of his daughter from a previous marriage, Carolina (Juno Temple). She married a mobster and is on the run. His henchmen are on her tail, and she thinks she has the perfect place to hide — at her estranged father’s place. This doesn’t sit so well with Ginny, especially since she’s trying to deal with her problematic son (Jack Gore). You see, he starts fires. For no reason other than a semi-clever gimmick to have Allen cut to one of his arson scenes when fire starts up in Ginny’s life.

Belushi and Tempo are okay in their roles, but the story just isn’t there. It was an okay premise. The idea that a bunch of these miserable people live so close to where the fun and excitement of the boardwalk and tourists are right in their backyard. It reminds me of the recent movie The Florida Project where people live in the shadow of Disney World.

This just felt more like a play. The first draft of a play. Just because Allen mentions Eugene O’Neill doesn’t make this O’Neillesque. This feels like something Mickey would write in his film class attempting to be O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Neil Simon. The teacher would’ve given Mickey a B-, and told him these were just caricatures with no depth. The characters are distant and we never have any affection for them. They’re just not that interesting, and we’ve seen all this before.

Suzy Benzinger’s costumes work better than the characters do.

This gets 2 stars out of 5.

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