Wonder Wheel


Woody Allen’s hit-and-miss output means that for every Match Point or Blue Jasmine, there’s a Cassandra’s Dream or an Irrational Man. His clockwork rhythm of one-to-two films a year can be perceived as impressive, but the director’s 49th feature will make even the most dedicated of Woody fans sigh wearily. Wonder Wheel is a knowingly melodramatic tale, as evidenced by the opening monologue which makes a point of warning you as to what you’re about to see. However, when that’s a dull and clichéd story about a love triangle featuring a former actress on the verge of a breakdown (Kate Winslet) and her pixie-like step-daughter (Juno Temple) fighting over the same man, a lifeguard and aspiring writer (Justin Timberlake), then the question is: Why bother?

The central trio do their level best with the laughable dialogue, and the kindest thing there is to say about this under-baked Tennessee Williams pastiche is that it looks good, with Vitto Storaro on cinematography duties once more after his excellent work on Allen’s Café Society. The latter bathes the 1950s Coney Island setting with some gorgeously vivid and warm colours, to the extent you’ll find yourself more mesmerised by the lush lighting than anything the characters are saying.

Otherwise, Wonder Wheel is an uninspired drama which will likely go down as one of Allen’s most baffling missteps. Indeed, a lot of the director’s films invite comparisons with his own life, but his latest might be the most blatant and ill-advised, especially in terms of synchronicity with current events happening in Hollywood. Granted, it’s generally wise to separate the art from the artist, but the real-life parallels here about an Allen-surrogate getting frisky with both mother and much younger step-daughter hit a little too close to home and are, frankly, squirm-inducing.

“Oh God, spare me the bad drama”, says a character at one point. If ever there was a time to heed the advice of your unknowingly self-reflexive dialogue, Woody, now would have been that time.

Wonder Wheel | Directed by Woody Allen (USA, 2017), with Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple. Starts January 11.

Check our OV search engine for showtimes.