Movies & More reviewer John Gillispie shares his thoughts on "Wonder Wheel," which is rated PG-13 and available on DVD.
Directed and written by Woody Allen, "Wonder Wheel," which features a talented cast, spins a tragic 1950s tale set mostly at Coney Island.
Kate Winslet stars as Ginny, who had dreams of being a stage actress but works as a waitress at Ruby's Clam House at Coney Island. Ginny is married to Humpty (Jim Belushi), and they live in an apartment behind the rifle target shooting booth at Coney Island with a view of the Wonder Wheel ride from their front window. Ginny has a troubled young son Richie (Jack Gore) from an earlier relationship which still haunts her.
The film begins as Carolina (Juno Temple), who hasn't seen her father Humpty in years, shows up looking for a place to stay. Carolina has talked to the police about her husband's illegal activities and believes that her life is in danger.
Meanwhile, Ginny begins an affair with Mickey (Justin Timberlake), a lifeguard and college student who narrates part of the film. Mickey admits to the viewer he tends to be a romantic, and perhaps this character sees himself as bringing some joy to Ginny's unhappy life.
Once Mickey meets Carolina, though, he begins to feel an attraction to her. Ginny tries to steer Carolina, who is unaware of her stepmother's affair, away from Mickey without much success and becomes more and more upset about the thought of losing Mickey.
Toward the end of the film, Ginny is presented with a decision that will have a major impact on the lives of the film's major characters.
Interestingly, the scenes that take place inside Ginny's home with that view of the Wonder Wheel have a very theatrical feel to them, as if written for the stage. As the movie progressed, it occurred to me that perhaps Allen's goal was to show that Ginny - who had wanted to be a success as a stage actress - was turning her home life into a tragic play.
John Gillispie is the public relations director for the Huntington Museum of Art.