Wonder Wheel 

With the inevitable depletion of a once seemingly inexhaustable well of inspiration that produced classics like Annie Hall and Manhattan, it's unfortunate that the septua/octo-genarian twilight of Woody Allen's career will forever be defined by a thematically diverse but unremarkable collection of films which in another lifetime, by dint of their inchoate form and structure, probably would not have seen the light of day. His latest effort, headlined again by the usual revolving door of big name stars lured primarily by the Allen brand, is no exception. 

Set in New York in the early 1950s in the decidedly blue collar seaside environs of a Coney Island dominated by its iconic ferris wheel, Wonder Wheel centres its themes of domestic and economic disenfranchisement on the weary shoulders of Kate Winslett's Ginny, a forty-something diner waitress. Wearing the glum mien of someone whose hardscrabble life so far hasn't amounted to a hill of beans, Ginny has found brief emotional respite from her schlumpy, browbeating  husband Humpty (Jim Belushi) and the pyromaniacal antics of her pre-teen son, in the arms of an opportunistic young life-guard cum would-be writer named Mickey (Justin Timberlake), who also doubles as the film's narrator. When Humpty's long-estranged daughter Carolina (Juno Temple) turns up and catches Mickey's wandering eye, Ginny finds herself kicked to the curb like a crushed beer can.

Harking back to the far superior black and white kitchen sink dramas from the late fifties that were instrumental in freeing British cinema from its post-war conservatism, Allen's American take on working class entropy stumbles badly under the weight of its contrived, melodramatic conceits. Vittorio Storaro's stunningly effulgent wide-screen color palette notwithstanding, the film evinces a conspicuous stagebound-cum-sit-com theatricality that is implicitly reinforced not only by the story's confinement to a predominantly one or two room setting, but also by the declamatory timbre of Winslet and Belushi's line readings. 


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