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Review: “Wonder Wheel” the Un-Wonderful (2 of 5 Stars)


By Christina Nicole, Staff Writer 

The painfully neurotic Woody Allen is back in all his lackluster glory to tell another self-indulgent tale of love and woe peppered with little bits of dry humor.

Wonder Wheel has all the classic makings of a Woody Allen film; it’s a period piece about a writer/aspiring writer, set in NY, with a narrator/character that breaks the fourth wall. It’s a self-indulgent film, oozing with exposition and lacking charm, wit, believability, and in some ways story.

As with each film, Woody Allen chooses are surrogate to play him, and in Wonder Wheel, Justin Timberlake lacks the awkward nuance that encapsulates a fake Woody Allen in the 1950s. Timberlake is too beautiful to play Woody Allen, and not good enough as an actor to be believable as a person from that era.

Timberlake plays the narrator, Mickey, an NYU grad student studying European Drama, i.e. an aspiring (play)writer. The film starts with Timberlake talking directly to the audience, setting the scene.

The acting in the film was not terrible, but some of the characters seemed to be reincarnations of former Woody Allen characters. Kate Winslet’s character is like a Coney Island Blue Jasmine; she’s unrefined and harboring a resentment for the present because she’s haunted by mistakes in her past.

Wonder Wheel feels like watching a play; there are very few sets or different locations. The camera is mostly stationary and it makes the film less cinematic. The perpetual narration adds to the theatre-esque nature of the film.

The cinematography of Wonder Wheel is the most interesting and frustrating aspect of the film. Overall, the film has a soft focus. The film is lit like a stage play. There aren’t spot lights, but there is the use of colored lights. It seems like they were trying to add a layer of depth to the shallow film. The intense reds and golden oranges hover over the characters faces and then a very cold, stark white washes over them, creating deep dark shadows.

The best part of Wonder Wheel, for me, was the comments I overheard while leaving the theater: “Are you kidding me?” “That was awful; I have to hurry home to watch something else before bed.” “I guess I can go kill myself now.” “Why, just why?”

Wonder Wheel gets 2 out of 5 stars, or 3 of 10 or one thumb mostly down, which is to say that if you don’t see the film, you won’t be missing out on anything.


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