“Wonder Wheel”, a dark but brilliant Woody Allen!

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Woody Allen directs the young Juno Temple in Wonder Wheel

The first Woody Allen film entirely shot in New York city for years, « Wonder Wheel », sounds more like a dramatic play involving three separate and conflicting love stories. It is dark, beautifully filmed and lit, and gives Kate Winslet one of her strongest parts ever. And Jim Belushi is strikingly good as a carrousel operator.

Justin Timberlake plays an evolving character from lifesaver to aspiring theater director

Like Beaujolais nouveau or an Amélie Nothomb novel, every year brings a new Woody Allen movie. Some are better than others but they all convey the same quality in direction and acting. This new film coming out on January 31 in Paris (it opened in New York on December 1, on Woody’s 82 nd birthday) fascinated me by the orignality of the colors and the brio of dialogues. The cinematography by seventy seven year old Vittorio Storaro is very surprising and beautiful. As if the two red headed actors had inspired him the warm, yellow lighting all along.

Kate Winslet is outstanding, on the beach of Coney Island

After Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow, Scarlett Johansson, Cate Blanchett and Emma Stone, Woody is making Kate Winslet a star with a rainbow of facets in her part. Since « Hideous Kinky »,  the first film I saw her in, in 1998, Winslet has emerged as a magnificent actress. She plays the role of Ginny who works as a waitress in a clam bar on Coney Island. She was an aspiring actress until she ruined her marriage by cheating on her husband. She is now married to a drunk carrousel operator whose beautiful « Lolita like » daughter reappears and messes up her love affair with Mickey, the lifeguard on the beach.

Jim Belushi is irresistible as Kate Winslet’s drunk but tender husband

The kinkiness of the fair’s decor, the romanticism of the beach, the excellence of all actors including young Jack Gore, who plays her movies obsessed son, make for a wonderful hour and forty minutes of human fights and intense dialogues. The little boy likes to light fires and she has to send him to a shrink a few times a week leading her husband to talk about the racket of psychoanalysts! Another Woody joke…

Timberlake seems very artificial at first in his 1950’s lifeguard outfit, talking about becoming a playwright, but he becomes more and more desirable as he inevitably falls in love with his lover’s young stepdaughter Carolina, played by the lovely British 28 year old actress Juno Temple (who looks about 18). Yet not after he’s taken Ginny to a very special Chinese garden on Staten Island…

Ginny and her son played by Jack Gore, who is reminiscent of Woody as a kid

When you’ve followed Woody for a long time like I have, you recognise his recurrent themes and talents. Like Mariel Hemingway in “Manhattan”, Emma Stone in « Irrational Man », Juno Temple (Carolina) falls in love with an older man (Justin Timberlake) who acts as a mentor but also as a victim of the young girl’s charm. Each character in the film is subtle including the « drunk » Humpty, who is the sweetest and most tender father and husband.

Falling in love in a pizzeria was inevitable…for Juno Temple and Justin Timberlake

The film takes place on Coney Island (Brooklyn) where Woody hung out when he was a kid and in the Village, in New York. It could be claustrophobic but deals with so many sorts of feelings that it is actually quite exciting.

Behind the cynicism lies a lot of romanticism and emotion, unfortunately the ending is not all smiles… (Out in Paris on January 31, in London on March 9)

And please don’t believe a word of the new trash campaign against Woody Allen. For having closely known him for forty one years, I can testify to his perfect gentleman’s behavior. And there is something Mia Farrow will never take away from him, it is that he’s never been happier today, with Soon Yi and their two delightful daughters.

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