The last time I appreciated a Woody Allen film was 2013’s ‘Blue Jasmine’. The last time I actually enjoyed a Woody Allen film was 2011’s ‘Midnight in Paris’. That’s a lot of time between drinks for a man who churns them out practically every year since the 60s. But despite my personal feelings about the man (for the record, they’re not favourable), his name on a marquee still elicits an excited tingle. This year, the New York native has gone back to his roots and set his latest yarn amongst the hustle and bustle of 1950s Coney Island - a place that has slowly lost its lustre over the decades, but still holds an appeal to my inner child... only this time, he may have finally killed what little appeal it had left. Allen has also committed an unthinkable act of creative cruelty - something I never thought possible. He made me hate Kate Winslet. Say it isn’t so!
It’s summer time and lifeguard Mickey (Justin Timberlake, ‘The Social Network’), a WWII vet and current college student with aspirations of becoming a playwright decides to tell the audience the tale of Ginny (Winslet, 'The Mountain Between Us', 'The Dressmaker', 'Titanic'), her husband Humpty (Jim Belushi), her young son Richie (Jack Gore, TV's 'Billions') and Humpty’s estranged daughter Carolina (Juno Temple, 'The Dark Knight Rises', 'Far From The Madding Crowd'), who wanders back into their lives after leaving her gangster husband and becoming a marked woman. Ginny is an overly dramatic former actress who laments losing her ex-husband due to infidelity, struggles to understand her pyromaniac son, and lives day in day out as a clam waitress in a loveless marriage. So naturally, Mickey and Ginny start an affair - that is until beautiful Carolina enters the picture and shakes things up a bit.
Woody Allen made me hate Kate Winslet!
Allen is known for playing fast and loose with his dialogue, choosing to cast talented improvisors and letting them get deep into a scenario. Well, ‘Wonder Wheel’ is the first Allen picture I can recall where his cast have struggled - painfully - through a scene to get somewhere, anywhere, to make him happy enough to yell "Cut!" Lines are repeated, there are gaping holes, the dialogue doesn’t flow, it goes nowhere, and each character rides nausea-inspiring waves of emotion to give each scene a hint of excitement. It’s dizzyingly boring - yes, this is a term I’m pretty sure I just invented. Sure it seems oxymoronic but trust me, it works here.
Not a single character is likeable nor can they provoke an ounce of empathy, and while I don’t mind Justin Timberlake as an actor, he was shockingly miscast here. Distractingly so. This hour and forty minutes felt like forever with not even the incandescent Ms Winslet able to save me from ‘Wonder Wheel’s’ mind-numbing boredom or irritating characters. They were enough to make me want to scratch out my eyes and take a knitting needle to my eardrums for some peace. Oh Woody, where have you gone? He’s lost his biting comedic satire and gone for inert and boring. Shame.