Wonder Wheel is A Woody Allen Disaster

Kernel Jack never really wanted to see WONDER WHEEL but he did because on one else wanted to see it either. Early reviews weren’t kind and Jack is even less kind in his best review for the year haha. He gives the single best quote from a movie review I have read this year. WONDER WHEEL is a Woody Allen disaster that only scored a cinema release because a) it’s Woody Allen and b) the cast is impressive. WONDER WHEEL is out this week in Australia from Entertainment One and I suggest you watch it at your own risk. It is rated PG and runs for 101mins. Enjoy Jack’s review……………all the best………………JK.


I’m genuinely convinced that Woody Allen has been cloned. It’s the only logical explanation. Allen’s career goes beyond hit and miss. It’s as if after experimenting with the comedy genre throughout his early filmography, and then going on to win big Awards with ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN, Allen was subjected, perhaps even unwillingly, to a prototype cloning experiment. And it worked. Kind of. There were, of course, some side effects. While nearly an exact replica, Allen #1 retained all of his skills in filmmaking, whereas Allen #2 certainly did not. Allen #1 went on to make BLUE JASMINE, VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, while Allen #2 went on to make SCOOP, IRRATIONAL MAN and, his latest disaster, WONDER WHEEL.


Wonder Wheel Movie Juno Temple image
Juno Temple



Allen #2’s latest takes us back to Coney Island in the 1950s. We begin with Mickey (Justin Timberlake) sitting high up on his lifeguard podium (do those things have a name?) (Ed’s Note: Yes they do, Lifeguard Tower) and watching over the beach. Mickey turns to us, the audience, and begins to recount a story, of which he’s one of the main characters. It’s the story of Ginny (Kate Winslet), a failed actress turned waitress who’s living unhappily with her abusive husband Humpty (Jim Belushi) and fire-obsessed son Richie (Jack Gore). Ginny’s already unpleasant life is flipped even further upside down when Humpty’s estranged daughter Carolina (Juno Temple) shows up on their doorstep with gangsters coming after her. What unfolds is your typical Woody Allen romantic comedy. Or more accurately, it’s a typical Woody Allen #2 romantic comedy.


Wonder Wheel Movie Justin Timberlake and Kate Winslet image
Justin Timberlake and Kate Winslet



WONDER WHEEL is a number of things, but good certainly isn’t one of them. It’s bewildering to see Allen at his most incompetent, and while he’s made some serious junk, WONDER WHEEL may be one of his worst. The film is a deranged, misguided failure in which Allen masturbates all of his infamous tropes onto the screen at once. There are no consequences, very little stakes, no central character, certainly no likeable ones and barely a line of dialogue that made me think ‘hey, maybe this Allen guy is improving with age after all.’ He’s not. He’s proven that with his last four films. Things aren’t getting better, they’re getting worse, and I don’t know how many more I can take.


The film is a deranged, misguided failure in which Allen masturbates all of his infamous tropes onto the screen at once.


As is the case with most of Allen’s work, or certainly his work from the last few decades at least, WONDER WHEEL plays out like a first draft of a stage play. Plot elements are thought of, tempered with then left behind and ignored. There’s a big deal made about Ginny’s ex-husband throughout the first half of the movie that ultimately leads nowhere. Her relationship with her son is unrewarding and barely relevant. In fact, during the final conflict Allen decides to send his character off elsewhere, giving no ultimate resolution to his arc (if an attempt was even made at giving him an arc, which I highly doubt). Plus, it never helps when Mickey is obviously a representation of Allen, in which he pretentiously toots his own horn throughout about his use of metaphors, visual symbolism and wicked dialogue, despite all efforts made being absolutely lackluster.


Wonder Wheel Movie Kate Winslet and Jim Belushi image
Kate Winslet and Jim Belushi



Really, this is a film that never knows what it’s trying to be. It has no be all and end all message that gets driven in at any point. There’s a love story that ensues between Mickey, Ginny and Carolina, but you don’t care about it. None of these characters are likeable, and on top of that, Mickey and Ginny are characters with a near twenty-year age gap (which, granted, isn’t as weird here as they’re adults, but the subtext is noticeable), once again allowing Allen to ogle and froth over his disturbed obsession with younger women. Are we really to be surprised when watching a film from the man who married his own adopted daughter? No. But does this condone his constant obsession and approval of the subject matter? Absolutely not.

This is a problem that’s stemmed back throughout his entire filmography. MANHATTAN is often cited as one of Allen’s best works, but I simply don’t get it. It’s not great, and it still wouldn’t be great if Allen removed the sub-plot involving a relationship he has with a minor. All of the scumbags, rapists and sexual assaulters present throughout Hollywood are finally getting called out at the moment and rightfully so. Why, however, are we still letting Allen get work? His next film, A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK, depicts a thirty year old once again engaging in a relationship with a teenage girl. It needs to stop. There couldn’t possibly be a worse time to release that movie, so please, don’t even go and support this one.


Wonder Wheel Movie Justin Timberlake and Juno Temple image
Justin Timberlake and Juno Temple



It’s not even funny, and I’m *pretty sure* it was intended as a comedy. Not only that, but the film can’t be saved by Kate Winslet, which, as JK will tell you, is very hard to do (JK’s Note: DAMN STRAIGHT – SHE IS A GODDESS). This year’s THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US was very, very bad, but it was Winslet and her co-star Idris Elba who maintained the film’s watch-ability. Heck, even in the DIVERGENT movies, Winslet was still able to give a good performance. But here, there’s nothing. It’s a very showy, over-acted performance with little to no subtly. In fact, every cast member over-acts. Justin Timberlake is perhaps the most obvious, furthering irritating me given the sheer un-likeability of his character.


Wonder Wheel Movie Kate Winslet image
Wonder Wheel Movie Winslet



If there’s anything I liked about WONDER WHEEL, it’s that some of it looked nice. In fact, a lot of it looked nice. I’m not talking about the actual shots themselves, as most of them choose some really strange framing, especially one where a pole covers most of the on-screen action. There were some decent shots throughout, but I’m more talking about the lighting. The lighting was nice. I enjoyed it. It looked pretty. And that’s about it. I was bored fifteen minutes in. Everything else is the worst type of Woody Allen movie imaginable.





When he’s not spending an embarrassing amount of hours browsing through Netflix, Jack Dignan dedicates his time to reviewing movies of all genres and languages. He has done so since 2012. He also maintains a website of his own – www.directorscutmovies.com – and ever since their interview, he’s been best friends with Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino just doesn’t know it yet. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.