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Wonder Wheel

10 Aug

Wonder Wheel — directed by Woody Allen. Drama. 100 minutes Color 2017,
★★★★★
The Story: Coney Island, just before the fall, houses the manager of the carousel, his wife, his vagrant daughter, and a lifeguard from the beach, who collide in a turbulent thrill-ride.
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Woody Allen gives scenes full measure to his actors. Every scene rises to its occasion. If this world is tawdry, that truth is enlivened by the filming by Vittorio Storao, who covers the film with the gleam of spilled sticky sweet juice, which is exactly what Coney Island looked like in those days, and I was there then so I know.

Woody Allen has the guru’s gift of kindness to show all humans as fools. Whether in comedy or drama this is so, but the film less resembles Eugene O’Neill, which its characters refer to, than to Tennessee Williams whose wand has passed over this material replacing every Southern accent with Brooklynese, and planting in it the relative as an unwanted visitor in a hot, crowded apartment, the brutal host, the donning of the finery of a better past, hot sex under the boardwalk of Moon Lake Casino, and the threat of fire.

You must always go to a Woody Allen movie for the performances. His touch on actors is freeing. They are bound to be at their best under his rigorously liberating baton.

So you have to hand Jim Belushi all praise in going for broke with a character you are born not to like, but somehow end up joining up with. Justin Timberlake is the lifeguard who takes full sexual advantage of his summer’s lease but will disappear upstate for his BA by Labor Day, by jingo. Juno Temple plays the orphan waif Allen has used as muse all his life, and Jack Gore is the pyromaniacal, and, of course red-headed, child.

But it is Kate Winslet’s film. She plays the sweaty waitress in a boardwalk clam joint and second wife of the carousel man. This is Winslet’s finest hour and forty minutes. Something tenacious in the actor drives her to her joy and doom. Allen’s films, one-a-year since he was three years old, have opened the gate to the greatness of actresses. Mira Sorvino, Judy Davis, Diane Keaton, Diane Wiest, Kate Blanchette. Honest Kate Winslet joins them. Or joins you, if you listen to this word of wisdom and take Wonder Wheel — the whole thing — in.

 
 
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