Master filmmaker Woody Allen’s latest effort ‘Wonder Wheel’ is getting mixed reviews. Should you see it anyway?

December 12, 2017 GMT

Master filmmaker Woody Allen’s latest effort ‘Wonder Wheel’ is getting mixed reviews. Should you see it anyway?

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Woody Allen, despite his allegedly sordid personal life, is a brilliant filmmaker, having directed and starred in some of the most celebrated movies ever made.

However, “Wonder Wheel,” the latest entry into his wide-ranging and impressive filmography, is getting mixed reviews and you might be wondering if you should see it anyway, considering Allen’s pedigree.

Well, those who haven’t already boycotted Allen’s movies due to the sex abuse allegations accusations against him may still want to pass on “Wonder Wheel,” a drama set in the 1950s New York City of Allen’s youth.

There’s a compelling narrative at the heart of the master director’s latest effort, involving love, betrayal, redemption and a fatherly affection that transcends past discretions. Unfortunately, it’s also a highly experimental movie, and to put it bluntly, the experiment fails.

The dialogue evokes that of playwrights like Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill, and the lighting and color schemes seem to be recreating that of a stage production.

But Allen, for all of his directorial brilliance, is no Williams or O’Neill, and rather than coming off as eloquent or intelligent, the exchanges between his characters read like pretentious drivel.

His visual style might dazzle, but it’s not enough to make up for the lack of substance in his story.

There’s a talented cast in “Wonder Wheel,” including Kate Winslet, Juno Temple, Jim Belushi and Justin Timberlake. Unfortunately their sometimes impressive performances are often drowned in an ocean of Allen’s ostentatious showboating.

The story begins with the 25-year-old Caroline (Temple) returning home to her estranged father’s Coney Island home after a 5-year absence.

She returns not because she misses the man who raised her, but because her gangster ex-husband wants to kill her after she gave information to the FBI.

Her father Humpty (Belushi) is angry at first, but quickly rediscovers his love for his only child, and welcomes her into their home and pays for the resumption of her schooling over the protestations of his new wife Ginny (Winslet).

The opening moments might fool you into thinking that Caroline is the movie’s focus, but that role falls to Ginny and Mickey (Timberlake).

Mickey is an aspiring playwright and a world-traveled Navy veteran paying his way through grad school with a Coney Island lifeguarding gig. A chance encounter on a rainy day leads to an affair between the two thanks to a largely loveless marriage between Ginny and Humpty.

But Ginny’s marital difficulties seem accutely benign compared to Caroline’s life-or-death drama, and the audience will undoubtedly find itself wondering what’s happening to Caroline while the film focuses on her dalliances.

The conflict doesn’t really begin until Mickey catches Caroline’s eye and pursues a relationship with him, but her story arc is only explored to the extent that it affects Ginny and Mickey’s affair, making her seem like a side character even though she has the most to lose.

Mickey soaks up most of the film’s pretentiousness with dialogue that falls well short of believable. Timberlake has impressed in some of his previous film roles, including “The Social Network” and “Alpha Dog.” And while he tries his best in “Wonder Wheel,” he’s not up to the task of playing an artsy NYU grad student written by someone making a shallow attempt at tipping his hat to Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill.

Some acting greats are capable of making the best of bad dialogue, but Timberlake just isn’t one of them.

The film’s lack of likeable characters doesn’t help matters. Their transgressions are difficult to describe without giving away too much of the story, but suffice to say that Caroline’s father Humpty, a drunk and an implied domestic abuser, is one of the least despicable characters.

Allen films the movie with some obvious affection for the Coney Island of the early 1950s, which is apparently one of his fondest childhood memories, and his love for the amusement park manages to filter through the layers of snooty dialogue and the less-than-stellar story, but it isn’t enough to save “Wonder Wheel.”

You can skip this one without worrying that you missed out on anything.

“Wonder Wheel” is in theaters Dec. 15.