March 24, 2018

Woody Allen's 'Wonder Wheel' blunders through exaggerated cynicism, offers decent imagery

08 December 2017, 09:42 | Taylor George

Kate Winslet believes Woody Allen understands women

Kate Winslet: 'I think on some level Woody is a woman'

"Why is it that Harvey Weinstein and other accused celebrities have been cast out by Hollywood, while Allen recently secured a multimillion-dollar distribution deal with Amazon, greenlit by former Amazon Studios executive Roy Price before he was suspended over sexual misconduct allegations?" she says.

On its own "merits", it would still be a dud.

Woody Allen's "Wonder Wheel" is told from the point of view of a male character who is romantically involved simultaneously with both a woman and her stepdaughter.

Mickey has genuine feelings for the increasingly clingy Ginny, but he doesn't love her. It's important that we don't stand for this and that we don't focus on one or two or three or four stories, it's important that we focus on humanity in general and say, 'This is unacceptable.' " But on the subject of Allen, she said, "It's very risky to factor in things you don't know anything about. "Have you forgotten me?" Film criticism is one thing, broader societal criticism is another, and never the twain shall meet - and that's not even to mention the inherent benefit of keeping the artist an arm's length away from their art. Love wants what love wants. Timberlake, gurning to camera, is the narrator-cum-hero of Wonder Wheel, and spends much of the first half poking his face down the lens like a middle-aged Ferris Bueller.

Come on Woody. How are we NOT supposed to think this is some sort of commentary on the whole Mia Farrow/Soon-Yi story? Alas, "Wonder Wheel" is a return to the familiar grind, running off a checklist of the filmmaker's exhausted pet obsessions while occasionally playing like a parody of post-war Broadway miserabilism.

This is not a career highlight for Winslet. Ginny's even a failed actress who dreams of a return to the stage; her delusional vanity makes her a thin blue-collar variation on Cate Blanchett's title character in the superior "Blue Jasmine". Ginny (Kate Winslet giving a terrific performance that nearly makes me forget The Mountain Between Us exists) is unhappy as the wife to Humpty (Saturday Night Live alumni and Chicago's own Jim Belushi), often neglected with references to physical abuse (although never depicted on-screen).

Now Carolina is on the run, having spilled the beans to the feds about her husband's criminal activities.

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"I didn't know Woody and I don't know anything about that family", she told the Times.

From his start in stand-up through his many on-screen appearances as a comic alter ego, Allen has always flirted with autobiography in his work, teasing an audience with the notion that at least some of this might be true. Winslet's Ginny feels like a cousin to Tennessee Williams' Blanche DuBois from "A Streetcar Named Desire".

'Wonder Wheel, ' with Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Jim Belushi, Juno Temple, Jack Gore, Max Casella, David Krumholtz.

All hokum. All window dressing for a limp, underwhelming, irritating soap opera.

Winslet carries this film and puts in an excellent performance. A subplot concerning Ginny and Humpty's bratty son Richie (Jack Gore), who sets fires up and down the beach - and in the office of his psychiatrist - only makes matters worse, given that it serves no narrative objective save to underscore Allen's theme of risky, all-consuming desire.

Contrast that with the roles of the two gangsters hunting down Carolina. This "solution" comes in the form of mobsters, played by professional Italian goons Steve Schirripa and Tony Sirico of "The Sopranos", who are looking for Carolina.

Timberlake, Belushi and Temple all give their characters comic energy - the poetic lifeguard is boundlessly charming; the prosaic merry-go-round operator is big and bombastic; his daughter is ditzy - but as the action grows darker, the actors lose their way, uncertain how seriously they are supposed to take the drama they are enacting.

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