The personal circus that goes on inside the fairground is the focus of this Coney Island drama.
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It’s the 1950s, and through the eyes of Coney Island lifeguard Mickey (Justin Timberlake), we come to know the intimate details of his married lover Ginny (Kate Winslet), her recovering alcoholic husband Humpty (Jim Belushi), and their estranged daughter Carolina (Juno Temple), who is being hunted by the mob.
Struggling to get by on the humble living offered from carny life, and facing the dire reality of a marriage on the brink, Humpty and Ginny battle on, while Ginny’s secret affections for Mickey starts to grow serious.
Mickey is also smitten with his older lover, until he meets her young and attractive step-daughter, Carolina. With his undeniable feelings for Carolina, he must decide whether the pursuit of her affections is worth the wrath of a jealous Ginny, as well as placing himself in the firing line of the mob, for whom she’s been snitching.
Wonder Wheel takes Woody Allen’s New York neuroticism and focusses it on the dysfunctional lives of a particular social group. While Winslet does her best to save this film, Belushi’s Humpty feels over-acted and never natural. Timberlake is better, but the characters don’t offer the insights or interest that Allen’s better films have achieved.
In an attempt to bring these real and human stories to light, too many caricatures are present. And, while it’s clear the aim was to juxtapose the rich colours of the fair against the drab and mundane existence of those who run it, the nuance is lost with performances that feel strained and deliberate.
Woody Allen’s films are always hit or miss. Sadly, Wonder Wheel falls firmly in the latter. Despite lots of nostalgic indulgences, lush cinematography and Winslet’s strong female lead, there’s simply not enough magic to this fairground affair.
Director: Woody Allen
Stars: Kate Winslet, Jim Belushi, Justin Timberlake
Runtime: 1hour 41mins
Release Date: December 07
Reviewer Rating: 2.5/5