Magazine article Variety

Wonder Wheel

Magazine article Variety

Wonder Wheel

Article excerpt


Wonder Wheel

Director: Woody Allen

Starring: Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Jim Belushi

Set in Coney Island in 1950, Woody Allen's "Wonder Wheel" is a bit too tidy and programmed in a well-made-playfrom-the-postwar-era kind of way Yet it's more than a therapy session with antiquated wisecracks. It's got movement and flow, a sunset look of honkytonk nostalgia and a bittersweet mood of lyrical despair. It's also strikingly acted by a cast of players who don't just walk through the Woody motions; they grab their roles and charge them with life. "Wonder Wheel" isn't a comedy - on the contrary, it feels like the most earnest kitchen-sink drama that Clifford Odets never wrote. It may or may not turn out to be an awards picture, but it's a good night out, and that's not nothing.

In the 20 years since "Titanic," Kate Winslet's acting has acquired a distinct edge, a certain remorseless quality of harsh-tongued resolve. She long ago made a decision to stop being anyone's dream-factory sweetheart, and Allen, in "Wonder Wheel," has written her a role that fits the new hardscrabble Winslet like a rough but perfectly shaped glove.

She plays Ginny, a once-fiery redhead who used to be married to a jazz drummer she adored, but that all seems like a mirage from the past. Ginny, who's approaching her 40th birthday, now works as a waitress in a Coney Island clam bar and lives with her son, Richie (Jack Gore), and her second husband, Humpty (Jim Belushi), in a cramped apartment directly across from the giant blue Ferris wheel with pink lettering that's the amusement park's signature attraction.

The sound of arcade gunfire drives Ginny nuts. So does Humpty, a gruff Stanley Kowalski-Ralph Kramden lunkhead in a wife-beater who operates the Coney Island merry-go-round. Snappish and morose, fueled by the occasional secret slurp of whiskey, Ginny seems like a pill - but actually, she's a romantic running out of hope. Winslet plays her with a controlled rage that can seem lashingly arbitrary, as if she were suffering from borderline personality disorder, but then you realize that Ginny is reacting, with a piteously sane logic, to her closed-in circumstances.

She meets Mickey Rubin, a lifeguard played, with high hair and a gliding spirit of postwar bohemian pretension, by Justin Timberlake. …

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