Posts Tagged ‘Wonder Wheel’

As a kid, I spent many wonderful days and nights at Coney Island. It was a magical place: going to the crowded beach where someone else might bite your sandwich, where every Tuesday night there were fireworks off the shore, where titillating scenes could be found under the boardwalk, where Nathan’s sold the best hot dogs and fries, and where you could ride the Cyclone, the Parachute Jump, and the Wonder Wheel.  I liked the latter because I wouldn’t get nauseous. It is a sort of Ferris wheel where the enclosed cars would roll outward, momentarily suspending the riders in space.  Woody recreated all of that in his latest film Wonder Wheel. He wrote it and directed it.

In Woody’s new film, a period piece, his strong points remain potent. He re-creates the excitement of 1950’s Coney Island through film magic, right down to the colors which look like they were just shot with the earliest color movie films. I was mesmerized by the cinematography and design which  are always superior in his movies.

As usual, Woody put together a perfect ensemble of actors including Jim Belushi as Humpty,  a middle aged carousel operator;  Kate Winslet as Ginny,  a forty-something neurotic former actress, now working as a waitress in a clam house, who falls for a young lifeguard Mickey,  played by Justin Timberlake; and Juno Temple in the role of Carolina, a hot young blond who’s trying to escape from her mobster husband. There were fun cameos by Soprano’s actors Tony Sirico and Steve Schirripa playing, what else, two gangsters chasing after Juno’s character.

Kate Winslet was wonderful in  her roll,  especially during her last scene when she dissolves into a psychotic alcoholic rage.

Juno Temple as Carolina in Wonder Wheel. Internet photo

The movie was a little long, and the plot dragged in the middle. I was disappointed with the score. Unlike other Woody movies, where the music is usually thrilling, this time it was too infrequent and not very interesting.

The dialogue was difficult to portray because it was from another era.  Woody’s writing was spotty, but at times it was amazing, such as a scene, filmed in a car during a downpour. Mickey is sitting in the front seat with Carolina.  He is taken by her sensuous beauty and he comments on how she looks in the “rain light.”  As a photographer I could relate to that, and she did look glorious.

It’s old news, but Woody Allen always does better with his comedies rather than his more serious themes as in Wonder Wheel.   Nevertheless, this Woody film is worth seeing, especially  if you like the Woody elements, which I do, that he is known for.

I suppose what I liked best are the nostalgic striking setting, the marvelous acting by a superb cast, the recreation of a magical place, and the chance to see one more Woody film, even though it is not a great movie .  We will see any film he makes, and Wonder Wheel, although not very wonderful, shouldn’t be missed, especially if you are a Woody Allen fan.

PATTI PAGE    “You Belong to Me”  This song is perfect for Wonder Wheel.  It was popular in 1952.

Editor’s note:  We saw this newly arrived movie on a Tuesday evening at the Showroom in Asbury Park.  They have a terrific special deal there where you can sign up for movie discounts every Tuesday. I figured that many Woody Allen fans would show up at this 4:45 screening.   But there were just a handful of us.  A man walked in, older, and he sat in the front row, probably the worst seats in the house.

“You must be a Woody Allen fan like us,” said I.  He turned around and said, “No…I don’t even know the name of this film.”

“Really?” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “I’m here only because of Kate Winslet”

“Oh,” said I. “I remember her from the Titanic.”

He said nothing else, and then the lights dimmed.

Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

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