WONDER WHEEL review by Ronnie Malik – Kate Winslet commands in Woody Allen’s latest

WONDER WHEEL review by Ronnie Malik – Kate Winslet commands in Woody Allen’s latest

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Kate Winslet, Jim Belushi, Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake, Max Casella, David Krumholtz

Rating: C

WONDER WHEEL is set on the bustling boardwalk of 1950’s Coney Island. Woody Allen, who directs the film, introduces us to pretty boy lifeguard Mikey (Justin Timberlake) narrating the tragic story of Ginny (Kate Winslet) who spends her days dealing with her recovering alcoholic husband Humpty (Jim Belushi), her pyromaniac 11-year-old son Richie (Jack Gore), and her beautiful stepdaughter Carolina (Juno Temple). Ginny is trapped in a world she feels enslaved by and fantasizes on making her escape to a life filled with love, adventure, and freedom.

A waitress at a local diner, Ginny drinks too much when she gets migraine headaches, lashes out at those closest to her, and spends her days dreaming of her lost acting career and her first husband who was the love of her life. Walking along the beach one day she meets Mikey. A World War II veteran that works as a lifeguard while pursuing a master’s degree, Mikey is a budding writer that takes each part of his life as an act in a play. Immediately attracted to each other, Mikey and Ginny start an affair which the unhappy wife sees as way out of a miserable situation with her loud and obnoxious husband and misbehaving son she can’t control.

The balance in Ginny’s world is disrupted when Carolina, her beautiful stepdaughter, begs for refuge because she is running away from her gangster husband. Carolina believes that no one will come looking for her in the east coast because it is common knowledge that she was estranged from her father for the past five years. At first Humpty is very angry because years ago his daughter, who he felt had so much potential to get an education and thrive, threw away golden opportunities he provided for her so that she could marry a good for nothing criminal. It’s not long after Carolina arrives that her father has a forgiving heart and decides to let her stay with his new family while he helps her get through college. Ginny, feeling very put upon by the unwanted guest, has no choice but to tolerate Carolina’s presence in her home.

Ginny continues to live in her fantasy of escaping her miserable life with Mikey. The summer fling is going along nicely until one day Mikey takes notice of Carolina. Much to Ginny’s dismay, Carolina begins confiding in her stepmother about her attraction and feelings for Mikey. Horrified at the thought of losing Mikey to a younger woman and that the new love interest just happens to be her stepdaughter, sends Ginny into a tail spin that leads to an unforeseen outcome.

The image of the Wonder Wheel, a large and overbearing Ferris wheel blocking views to the ocean coupled with the crowds and noise, creates the feeling of imprisonment and entrapment that Ginny deals with in her day to day life. We see her lack of interest in a husband she has nothing in common with and the frustration of not knowing why her son is acting out by setting fires all over town. To top it off she gets to witness the adoration and attention that the gorgeous Carolina gets from everyone especially Humpty who feels his daughter is meant for better things, but at no time does he ever encourage his actress wife to do something other than waitressing. Ginny’s anger, jealousy, and frustration all lead her down a path of destruction.

WONDER WHEEL is a film that serves as a platform for Kate Winslet to knock it out of the park and a reminder that she is one of the most fabulous actresses of our time. The Oscar winner’s performance of a neurotic woman that is a romantic at heart but whose rage drives her to the brink of insanity is simply awesome. Justin Timberlake is charming and likable as the attractive beach boy that talks directly into the camera, but is rather limited in this role. Jim Belushi pulls off a desperate husband trying to understand his wife while he clings to his good ole days of just hanging out with the guys. Juno Temple gives off an ethereal like quality playing a ditzy but good-hearted albeit misguided young woman. Each of the supporting cast members add a touch of humor giving the dark film just a bit of color.

WONDER WHEEL feels more like a stage production than a movie. The story is rolling along and audiences will be anxiously waiting for a climax or big reveal, but in the end the story comes to a grinding halt and leads absolutely nowhere. The end result is a feeling of dissatisfaction because there is no real closure provided for the narrative. What was the point of watching all that drama if there was no resolution? The strong cast is not quite enough to save this production, but with awards season right around the corner, fans of Kate Winslet should see the film so that they will not be surprised when more than likely she will get a few nominations for her outstanding performance as a crazed jealous aging actress reminiscing on her glory days.

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