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Wonder Wheel


Stars: Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Jim Belushi, Jack Gore, Max Casella, David Krumholtz, Tony Sirico, Steven J. Schirripa

Director: Woody Allen

Every year Woody Allen delivers another new film, some good, some not so good and some terrible like 2006's Scoop which, already paid for in part by the British via the BBC's licence fee, was released (on cut-price discs) by DVD pirates on a main road in north London.

So Allen is patently a genius when it comes to finding finance for his annual films.

This time around Amazon Films take credit for his 2017 effort (and they're welcome to it), helping deliver a sad misfire which is set on Coney Island amusement park in the 1950s.

Coney Island - well recreated here - may well have provided amusement more than half a century ago.

Allen doesn't.

Long-ago aspirant performer Winslet now works as a waitress and lives with her thuggish carousel operator husband Belushi (giving all and rather too often rather too much) and their young son who, sadly, is a dedicated pyromaniac.

The increasingly lacklustre offering is briefly catalysed when Winslet has an affair with lifeguard Timberlake who does his best, but is frequently brought down by Allen's dim dialogue. His reaction to Winslet's unhappiness - 'The dramatist in me sensed she was in some kind of trouble. Her body language read vulnerable and desperate' - is more embarrassing than revealing.

Enter Timberlake's daughter from his first marriage who is on the run from murderous gangsters. Temple plays her with more gusto than conviction.

And, she too, has an affair with Timberlake.

I hope I haven't made it sound too entertaining.

It's not.

Technically proficient (Vittorio Storaro's digital cinematography in particular is excellent) Wonder Wheel fails to grip and ultimately falls flat, finally resembling a methodical but uninspired pastiche of some (rightly) forgotten 1950s' Hollywood melodrama.

What kept me watching the screen rather than my watch which appeared at times to have stopped was Winslet, whose searing performance, far better than the material deserves, is the film's sole saving grace and impressive with it.

Alan Frank

USA 2017. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour.
101 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 10 Mar 2018