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Westside Steve

Wonder Wheel review

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Wonder Wheel
PG-13.              101

Streaming services are making big strides into the way we watch movies and television. Netflix with their original series Hulu with the Ron Howard Beatles documentary and Amazon video who picked up a lot of critical buzz last year with Manchester-by-the-sea. Wonder Wheel is another Amazon video production from one of America’s greatest writer-directors, Woody Allen. It is however appearing on a disappointingly small number of brick-and-mortar screens, quite possibly because of the Neo Puritans and the witch hunt of Mr. Allen. Woody has an amazing number of films on his resume ranging from slapstick comedy to heart crushing drama all seasoned with a good helping of autobiography. This particular film is a period piece set in the 50s as the glamour of Coney Island has begun to fade and 5 characters combine in five interwoven stories. Humpty (Jim Belushi) a recovering alcoholic struggling to make ends meet as a carousel operator, his wife Ginny (Kate Winslet) a failed actress working as a waitress in a Clam House, his estranged daughter Carolina (Juno Temple) who ran away from home to marry an abusive gangster from whom she is now on the run, Mickey (Justin Timberlake) an aspiring writer earning a living as a lifeguard but awestruck by the romance  and  drama of the great playwrights. I originally found Timberlake’s character  to be short of the charisma  needed to pull off the role but it’s the lack of which that actually makes it work in the end. Oh and Ginny’s kid Richie a firebug and thief.  What we have in this group is a minefield of unfulfilled relationships all of which seemingly destined for tragedy. Ginny has found new hope in a relationship with Mickey whose fascination with the older woman starts to fade when he meets the younger (but decidedly dangerous) Carolina. I won’t tell you how things shake out other than to remind you that Woody Allen really takes easy way out with a cheap and easy ending. All I can tell you is that even though I hoped against hope for a way out of the quiet desperation I did empathize with all the players in this drama.

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