Wonder Wheel (2017)


Cast includes: Kate Winslet (Titanic), Juno Temple (Atonement), Justin Timberlake (The Social Network), Jim Belushi (Saturday Night Live)
Writer/Director: Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Blue Jasmine)
Genre: Comedy | Drama (101 minutes)


Huffington Post

In the 1950s, the beach and boardwalk at Coney Island are getting seedier, according to Mickey, the lifeguard at Bay 7 and an aspiring poet and dramatist. He will be narrating the story that we’re about to see… and he will become a key player as events unfold. “Enter Carolina.” With the Farris wheel called “Wonder Wheel” in the background, Carolina appears flat broke and looking for Humpty. At the Clam House, she finds Ginny, Humpty’s wife. “I know he’s gonna be upset, but I had no choice,” Carolina says, adding, ”You’re much younger than I expected.” The high-strung Ginny is completely flustered but knows she must bring Carolina home, despite the inevitable fireworks that will erupt when Humpty sees his daughter. “It used to house a freak show,” she explains about the unusual apartment directly above the boardwalk, where the noise and the honkytonk of Coney Island seem to be present at all hours of the day and night. In a nutshell, Carolina had to flee because her husband and the mob are out to kill her, after she spoke to the police. “I told you never to set foot in my house again… I told you not to marry a gangster.” “I was 20 and in love,” says Carolina. Humpty can never stay mad at Carolina for long… he soon tells her she can stay with them and asks Ginny to get her a job at the Clam House. About the gangster husband… “He won’t think I’ll ever show up here.” (Famous last words!)

Meanwhile, Ginny can certainly understand about making bad choices. She married a drummer… the love of her life. Then she had an affair with someone else and ruined her wonderful marriage. “I fall in love too easily.” After a downward spiral, Humpty “saved my life.” She doesn’t enjoy any of the things Humpty likes to do, she hates Coney Island, and when he drinks, he can become violent. Mickey loves Ginny’s story because it’s just the kind of thing that seems romantic to an aspiring dramatist… “There’s always a tragic flaw.” But Ginny assures Mickey she’ll ”never make that mistake again.” Then she accepts Mickey’s invitation to go out… and pretty soon, he takes her to that place under the boardwalk where they can be alone, make love and share Mickey’s romantic fantasies about places like Bora Bora. An affair with a beautiful “older” woman “fits into the romantic narrative of the writer’s life.” When Mickey meets Ginny’s charming stepdaughter, a new romantic narrative takes shape. When Carolina mentions Bora Bora, Ginny sees her life spiraling out of control again.

Woody Allen films have long been received with mixed feelings, given his well-publicized and controversial personal life. In 2017, the MeToo movement brings even more attention to the controversy. The paradox is that Woody Allen films have almost always had great roles for women, and this one is no exception. The role of Ginny is a total departure from the type of roles Kate Winslet is known for, but it showcases her incredible versatility and talent. While all the casting and performances are excellent, the success of Wonder Wheel depends on the unique and extraordinary portrayal of the very flawed Ginny. As expected, Mickey’s interest in Carolina presents a complicated challenge for Ginny, who is at heart a rather simple woman. It’s fascinating to watch her almost child-like struggles to avoid ruining her life again. Add to that, an array of other flawed characters, and this truly is the stuff of “romantic narrative” ... fit only for an aspiring poet and dramatist.

popcorn rating

3 popped kernels

A Coney Island love triangle, spurred on by an aspiring poet and dramatist

Popcorn Profile

Rated: PG-13
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Mainstream Limited Release 
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Nicely Varnished Realism with Computer Effects
Nutshell: Love triangle
Language: True to life

Social Significance: Pure Entertainment & Thought Provoking

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