Now isn’t a good time for Woody Allen to make a bad movie, while broken silence resurrects whispers of his own alleged sexual misconduct.
Wonder Wheel (PG-13) is exactly what the 82-year-old Oscar winner doesn’t need, a reason beyond social outrage for him to just go away.
Set in Coney Island circa 1950, Wonder Wheel stars Kate Winslet as Ginny, a worn-down boardwalk waiter whose second husband, Humpty (Jim Belushi), runs the merry-go-round when he isn’t catching dinner off a pier. He’s satisfied with life; she needs something more.
Ginny and Humpty are surprised the way characters are in bad plays by the arrival of his estranged daughter Carolina (Juno Temple, actually pretty good). Carolina’s on the lam from her mobster husband Humpty never liked. By now, Allen should instinctually realize we don’t need to hear Humpty explain why as if she hasn’t heard it before.
That’s just one example of Allen’s hamfisted dialogue throughout Wonder Wheel, the exposition dumps and leaden monologues of a laboring or lazy writer. The screenplay is essentially a series of acting class exercises, one showy moment after another connected by Allen tropes: a woman breaking down, gangsters, jazz, fetishistic nostalgia and moral dilemma.
The catalyst of Wonder Wheel is another weakness, a lifeguard named Mickey (Justin Timberlake, out of his league). Out of nowhere, Mickey announces to the camera that he and Ginny have been having an affair, which we’ll watch unfold through his hindsight. Things are complicated when Mickey meets Carolina, stirring Ginny’s jealousy.
The worst thing about Wonder Wheel is Allen’s wasting of Santo Loquasto’s extraordinary period designs, each exterior detail of boardwalk life framed by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro at his finest. But most of Wonder Wheel is cooped up in Ginny’s hovel or close-ups of her psyche.
Wonder Wheel is one of Allen’s worst movies, when a hit might turn down the heat, as it has before. This time is different, on screen and off. "Spare me the bad drama," Humpty bellows, barking at Ginny and speaking for us all. D
ALSO OPENING: FERDINAND
The animated comedy Ferdinand (PG) is taking the bull by the horns, facing off with Disney-Pixar’s Coco in the box office ring.
Based on the beloved children’s book, Ferdinand stars the voice of John Cena as a bull preferring a peaceful life smelling flowers to facing toreadors. The book’s sweet simplicity gets Blue Sky Animation’s manic Ice Age touch complete with SNL star Kate McKinnon as Ferdinand’s coach-goat. Olé.
in theaters: our Top 5
Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:
1 Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Best episode in the franchise since The Empire Strikes Back.
2 Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: One of 2017’s best films.
3 The Florida Project: Homeless children make their own magic in Disney World’s shadow.
4 Lady Bird: Saoirse Ronan shines in Greta Gerwig’s directing debut.
5 The Disaster Artist: James Franco celebrates the worst movie ever.
(Dates subject to change)
Wednesday: The Greatest Showman; Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Dec. 22: The Shape of Water; Darkest Hour; Pitch Perfect 3; Downsizing; Father Figures
Dec. 25: Molly’s Game; All the Money in the World
Jan. 5: Insidious: The Last Key
Jan. 12: The Post; Phantom Thread; The Commuter; Proud Mary; Paddington 2
Jan. 19: Call Me By Your Name; Hostiles; 12 Strong
Jan. 26: White Boy Rick; Maze Runner: The Death Cure