Wonder Wheel Screen 8 articles

Wonder Wheel


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  • Allen is 81 years old, yet he still has retained the romantic point of view of a teenager who hasn’t seen or experienced much of anything yet about life. Mickey wants to be a playwright, and he speaks with Ginny about tragic plays and how tragic protagonists are destroyed by a fatal flaw, but Allen is too self-aware and cold a creative personality to create a genuine tragedy in “Wonder Wheel.” Instead, he makes a gesture towards a tragic situation.

  • Given that it was very well received by an alarming number of colleagues when it played at the New York Film Festival in September, I’ve been trying to figure out a way that “Wonder Wheel” can be seen as good. Turgid even in its brightness, overwritten in a way that does nothing to camoflauge its first-draft quality, jaw-droppingly overacted by all but one of its central cast members; it’s a Woody Allen disaster that elicits both a cocked head and a dropped jaw.

  • Wonder Wheel's narrative, and its hyperbolic affectations, are purportedly filtered through Mickey's eyes. His propensity for viewing life as a real-time drama, and people as corporeal players, lends the proceedings an air of awkward theatricality, and one wonders if the film, which is populated exclusively by cardboard characters and rife with stilted dialogue and ersatz feelings, is really the product of his imagination or Allen's.

  • Like the later-Allen film it most resembles, “Blue Jasmine,” it seems constructed mainly as a vehicle for a lead actress, in a role that that’s yet another variation on Tennessee Williams’ Blanche Dubois. The actress this time is Kate Winslet, and if the film wins her an Oscar, history will have reason to remember it; if not, it will to attract little notice as it slips into Allen’s overstuffed back catalogue.

  • Mr. Allen certainly keeps you busy with all these colors, tones, influences, complications, stereotypes and histrionics, but to little end. As has always been the case with his movies, the actors seem to have delivered the performances they came to the set with, so the strong — in this case, the invaluable Ms. Winslet — are strong while the rest of the cast members do what they can with varying degrees of success.

  • It’s mildly diverting to see the subplots click together as if Fate had set a trap for Ginny to reveal the worst side of herself. It’s as if Allen were playing a game called “Cause and Effect.” But when the writer-director has to sustain a flight of passion or imagination, the self-conscious structure he set up gets in the way.

  • This is sophisticated filmmaking, but so what? Wonder Wheel is magical in a superficial way; it has a surface beauty that can’t disguise the material’s basic banality and ugliness—or the feeling that we’ve seen it all before. . . . And Storaro’s cinematography, while remarkable on a technical level, becomes the equivalent of Blanche’s papier-mâché lantern—a cheap bauble slung decorously overtop of a stark, unrewarding artistic perspective.

  • The name of Eugene O’Neill crops up throughout the film, and it’s something of a clue to the nature of Allen’s ambitions—“Wonder Wheel” is a story of desire and frustration, poverty and violence, in a working-class world of higher aspirations amid daily degradation. Allen raises the heated conflicts in close quarters to a high pitch of theatrical fury—and an ending that’s too ironic to spoil suggests a near-confessional agony.

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