Wonder Wheel

Critics Consensus

Wonder Wheel gathers a charming cast in an inviting period setting, but they aren't enough to consistently breathe life into a Woody Allen project that never quite comes together.

31%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 188

41%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,614
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Movie Info

WONDER WHEEL tells the story of four characters whose lives intertwine amid the hustle and bustle of the Coney Island amusement park in the 1950s: Ginny (Kate Winslet), an emotionally volatile former actress now working as a waitress in a clam house; Humpty (Jim Belushi), Ginny's rough-hewn carousel operator husband; Mickey (Justin Timberlake), a handsome young lifeguard who dreams of becoming a playwright; and Carolina (Juno Temple), Humpty's long-estranged daughter, who is now hiding out from gangsters at her father's apartment. Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro captures a tale of passion, violence, and betrayal that plays out against the picturesque tableau of 1950s Coney Island.

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Cast

Juno Temple
as Carolina
Jack Gore
as Richie
Robert C. Kirk
as Boardwalk Vendor
Tommy Nohilly
as Humpty's Friend
John Doumanian
as Ruby's Bartender
Thomas Guiry
as Flirtatious Man at Ruby's
Gregory Dann
as Fishing Buddies
Bobby Slayton
as Fishing Buddies
Michael Zegarski
as Fishing Buddies
Geneva Carr
as Ginny's Friend
Ed Jewett
as Ruby's Customer
Debi Mazar
as Birthday Party Guest
Danielle Ferland
as Birthday Party Guest
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News & Interviews for Wonder Wheel

Critic Reviews for Wonder Wheel

All Critics (188) | Top Critics (38)

  • Kate Winslet delivers an incendiary performance (easily her best since 2008 in The Reader)...

    Mar 8, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Kevin Maher

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • There is lots of expository dialogue and characters saying lines like: "I've become consumed with jealousy!"

    Mar 7, 2018 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Woody Allen seems to be running on empty now, situating his stories in cliched versions of the past, slapping together character and situations with little care or passion, except as bile and bitterness take him.

    Dec 15, 2017 | Rating: 2.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Allen, 82, has his ups and downs, and while there have been more downs than ups lately he is always worth the benefit of the doubt. But "Wonder Wheel" is a ride to nowhere.

    Dec 15, 2017 | Rating: C- | Full Review…
  • Like the fairground ride for which it's named, "Wonder Wheel" is entertaining but not enlightening.

    Dec 14, 2017 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • As we watch Allen worry and nitpick over the way women fret over aging, painting Ginny as pathetic, jealous, insecure, and clownish, it's dull, unoriginal, and offensive. Frankly, we've have enough Woody Allen takes on this subject.

    Dec 12, 2017 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Wonder Wheel

  • Feb 23, 2018
    Stilted and wooden, often played as if the characters were reading the script aloud for the very first time ... and yet there is something of a story here, a Southern Gothic if you will but played on New York's dying Coney Island of the 1950's. Strong performances throughout, and I had the feeling that the players literally threw themselves and their trust entirely on writer/director Allen. By the end I realized that most the critics who panned this were wrong. This is a fair work whose drama is like the age it emulates, conflicted, under wraps and straining to be free. I recommend this.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Feb 02, 2018
    The dialogue is a bit too heavy-handed and expository, as though Woody Allen was in a hurry to write and publish a theater play in about five days, but the film does have its moments and benefits from a beautiful cinematography and good performances, especially by Kate Winslet.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 24, 2018
    Say what you will about director Woody Allen, but his early filmography is still something to cherish. The numerous films of quality content are remembered and celebrated, but his more recent work has felt much more laid back. Although I haven't seen a great movie from him in a while, aside from maybe Blue Jasmine a few years back, I've always liked his style of storytelling. Wonder Wheel is his latest film and while there are many elements to like about it, it's really not all that great of a film as a whole. Allen has put himself in a spot where he has created acceptable movies for the past decade or so and I don't see him ever digging himself out of that hole. Unless you've been a die-hard fan of Woody Allen from the beginning, I honestly can't get myself to recommend this movie to you, and here's why. Ginny is married to Humpty, but Ginny likes Mickey, who likes Ginny's daughter Carolina. This situation sends the film on a whirlwind of emotions, but all predictable ones. Wonder Wheel tells this story through an interesting narrative, as Mickey (Justin Timberlake) explains the story directly to the camera, breaking the fourth wall. I've always enjoyed this sort of storytelling, so that aspect of the movie kept winning me over, but it's the rest of the film that just felt fake to me. The uninteresting and cliched romance between the married couple in Ginny (Kate Winslet) and Humpty (Jim Belushi) feels existent so that a falling out can occur later in the movie. For all of its positives, this is a movie that just feels staged throughout every revelation. Kate Winslet, Jim Belushi, and Justin Timberlake are all serviceable in their respective roles, but they also feel like they're giving just enough of themselves in order to earn a paycheck. Never once did I feel that any of them were giving their all. That being said, I found the standout of the film to be Juno Temple. Playing an innocent girl who just wants to start a life for herself and find love, I found her portrayal of Carolina to be quite inspired. Although she probably has the least amount of screen time, the character of Carolina is who and what I seem to remember most about Wonder Wheel. Woody Allen writes so many movies, that I feel it's just about his time to retire. Many of his scripts feel very much like his previous ones nowadays, seeming as though his knack has met its peak. Yes, he still remains an extremely talented filmmaker, but his body of work feels more like an assembly line of average products that people may or may not consume each year. I may be alone with that specific sentiment, but it's just my honest opinion. Sometimes filmmakers make their mark and then begin to fade away and I believe that may be happening with Allen. Looking back on Wonder Wheel, I remember enjoying the visuals and unique way that the cinematography would tell certain portions of the story at times, but the arcs of each character honestly had me bored to death. If I ever recommend this movie to anyone, it's solely going to be on the basis that they've been fans of Allen's direction from the beginning. I can't see many people thoroughly enjoying this film, because its incredibly slow pace definitely shows, even at its fairly short running time of 100 minutes. Overall, Wonder Wheel has enough solid elements to keep it from being a bad film as a whole, but there are too many distracting story points and boring characters to really recommend. This is one of the more disappointing movies of 2017 in my opinion.
    KJ P Super Reviewer
  • Dec 21, 2017
    PHONY ISLAND - My Review of WONDER WHEEL (2 Stars) The beautifully shot bad movie is nothing new in the world of cinema. This year alone yielded THE SNOWMAN, MOTHER!, and BEFORE I FALL, all pretty terrible films with generous amounts of visual interest. Regrettably, Woody Allen's latest falls into this category, making me wonder why Amazon Studios didn't agree to a deal where they only finance every third movie of this once brilliant but too-prolific filmmaking. Set in the 1950s on the Coney Island boardwalk, WONDER WHEEL tells the story of infidelity and betrayal as the titular ferris wheel towering above its characters suffers from decay and financial ruin. The amusement park's a metaphor y'all! Beware the dangers of aging! Narrated by Mickey (Justin Timberlake), a lifeguard with aspirations of becoming the next Eugene O'Neill and who's having an affair with Ginny (Kate Winslet), a former actress unhappily married to her abusive, drunk, carousel operator husband Humpty (Jim Belushi). Enter Carolina (Juno Temple), Humpty's daughter, to complicate everything even more. She's hiding out from some mobsters and immediately draws Mickey's attention away from the neurotic, unhappy Ginny. Yes, it's a soap opera storyline which forces its characters to make tough moral decisions. As such, it's hopelessly flat, and with the exception of Winslet, feels like a high school play. It's a poor man's DEATH OF A LONG DAY'S MARTY ON A HOT TIN ROOF COMETH INTO NIGHT. But, it's so gorgeously shot by the legendary Vittorio Storaro (APOCALYPSE NOW) and features a wonderfully complex performance by Winslet, that the film has some merit despite being a joyless suckfest. With the help of composite shots and CGI, Allen and Storaro get the most out of their setting, with our main characters literally living across the street from the giant ferris wheel. The beaches, the boardwalk and its Brooklyn streets play out in a technicolor dreamscape, making this one of Allen's most visually wonderful films. I could watch Juno Temple enter the film by strolling up onto the boardwalk all day on a loop and be perfectly fine. Winslet's Ginny oozes unhappiness from every pore, whether she's sparring with Humpty, questioning her affair with Mickey, or fending off the pyromaniacal tendencies of her young son Richie (Jack Gore). You get the sense that she'd gladly crack a smile if the entire human race didn't constantly disappoint her. As a shield to all the crushing defeats in her way, she has learned the art of the lie , often hiding it behind lashing out at anyone in her path. She's a trapped animal and never less than fascinating. It's a shame she's stuck in something so lifeless. The film also gets major points deductions for putting the wonderful Debi Mazar in it but barely giving her a line of dialogue or anything more than a profile in a wide shot. The world needs more Debi Mazar, more of her New York voice and Siberian Husky eyes, and Woody just squandered this resource. I'm considering legal action. Still, Woody Allen has something to say. He's drawn to the horrible things people will do to achieve their own bliss in life. Trouble is, he's covered this territory before, and with much better results in such films as CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS. There's even a callback to "the heart wants what the heart wants" themes of HANNAH AND HER SISTERS. Also, am I the only one struck by the somewhat icky fact that Mickey pursues someone else's wife AND step-daughter? At 82, Allen's clearly still working things out. I only wish he would slow down his process before releasing so many first drafts onto the public. But "the writer wants what the writer wants" I suppose.
    Glenn G Super Reviewer

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