Wonder Wheel Movie Review
Wonder Wheel Movie Review Metadata
If you’re looking at the trailers for WONDER WHEEL (2017)and thinking you might want to see what could possibly be Woody Allen’s theatrical swan song, maybe stay home and rent RADIO DAYS (1987). It’s taken me a long time to write this review because I hate murdering my idols.
On the boardwalk of a 1950s Coney Island, playboy lifeguard, Mickey (Justin Timberlake) recounts the summer he played libertine with the lives of two women, one married, Ginny (Kate Winslet), and one on the run from the mob, Carolina (Juno Temple). He’s breezy about his relationships because while he’s cute and sensitive, he’s also a cad – simultaneously giving both the truth and lies they want to hear.
Ginny is a former actress who works in a crab house on the Boardwalk, and barely scraping by. She lives in a room above the Boardwalk with her sort of recovering alcoholic husband, Humpty (Jim Belushi), who runs the Carousel, and their pyromaniac son, Richie (Jack Gore). Her life changes when Humpty’s adult daughter, Caroline shows up after dropping the dime on her mobster husband and running to her only safe haven. The stress of another mouth to feed and the possible danger to her family sends her into the arms of the much younger lifeguard, Mickey. He’s educated, and well spoken and gives her what she thinks she’s missing from her drab life. They can speak on plays she’s acted in and she can relive her summer stock glory days. It’s an escape for her, which only causes more tension on the family front as she’s increasingly irritated by and suspicious of everyone and everything happening. Caroline only complicates things, because while Ginny knows her affair is wrong she absolutely doesn’t want to share Mickey.
With everything going on, her head is just killing her, but don’t worry – it’s not anything medical we’re supposed to care about. Her head has nothing to do with the story or the plot, only that it makes her erratic and grumpy and downright sinister. I don’t know what Allen was trying to say by having her declare the status of her headaches every ten minutes, but after a point you just want her to take about 30 aspirin and shut up. If this is how Allen seems hysterical women on the edge, it’s super disappointing.
Because of the focus of WONDER WHEEL, the only sympathetic character is Caroline, and Temple plays her with the perfect amount of innocence and wariness. She got into a bad spot when she was younger, realized her mistake and is running away from it in a way that’s touching and a little reckless. Completely relatable for her age. Belushi’s Humpty is just a man caught between pride and the state of his family, but other than some shouting his presence only adds a darker tone to Ginny’s pathetic life. Gore’s Richie just likes to burn things, and that’s the extent of his character. Timberlake’s Mickey is a guy who thinks he’s nice but he’s kinda not. Women are temporary distractions for him, but he doesn’t see them that way on a conscious level. He likes their company, he likes the sex, but he either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about the turmoil he’s causing in their lives. He wants flings, but they want more. Maybe he thinks the issues will just resolve on their own, but it’s hard to say.
It’s staged like a play, which is unfortunate because it only highlights the extreme melodrama and overacting. Shouting and large movements would be perfect for a live performance, but on the big screen, it looks like scene chewing and over-acting. There are soliloquies and conversation exchanges that absolutely do not fit with characters in the 1950s, I don’t care how well-educated they are. The dialogue is awkward, the tantrums have the large movements designed to be seen from the cheap seats, and it’s just dripping with over-wrought angst.
I expect better from Woody Allen, and I don’t think he’ll get another chance to redeem himself
WONDER WHEEL is rated PG-13 for mild sexytimes, coarse language, smoking, drinking, and threats of violence.