Juno Temple takes to Allen's bombastic dialogue better than some of the other starsAMAZON STUDIOS

Be warned. I am an aspiring film critic, so I love bombast, and over-the-top analysis.

Always a good sign when things begin with an apology, isn’t it? It is the one conceit above all which lets us know immediately that what is set to follow will contain some flaws. If a creator is not confident of their work’s perfection, then just how likely are those subjecting themselves to it not to pick up on its problems?

“They definitively demonstrate that oldies can still stir the emotions”

Wonder Wheel, you will hardly be amazed to discover, opens with such an apology. We are to expect melodrama and larger-than-life characters. What, in a Woody Allen film? Knock me down with a feather, as one of the chipper Eastenders from Cassandra’s Dream would no doubt have exclaimed. It is not the presence of these standard tropes that sets alarm bells ringing, but the very admission, after all these years, that viewers deserve to be warned of their presence.

Sure enough, Wonder Wheel abounds in flaws. The theatrical performances create intensity in some scenes, but alienation in many others. There are several long speeches which reveal the characters’ inner torments far less effectively than quick glances or a surreptitious swig of scotch. The plot’s centrepiece actually takes place with only a few minutes of the film left to run, time having needlessly been squandered on the tale of an affair which was not actually all that interesting by comparison. The showy lighting is overbearing to the point of distraction, while the noise which is said to be so important in the film’s opening scene bizarrely barely registers in the mix.

Trailer for Wonder WheelYOUTUBE

Overegged the Wonder Wheel pudding may be, but it is not so eggy that it merits being left on the side of the plate. The script is wordy, but a good number of those words are observations of glorious irony, and small snorts of appreciation are duly triggered on a regular basis. The drama is not wholly insipid, and parts of the tragedy do resonate, particularly when Allen keeps the camera moving and catches a broad range of actions and reactions.


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Best of all is Jack Gore, who plays the pyromaniac progeny of Kate Winslet’s het-up waitress. His extraordinary comic timing means that every scene he appears in feels all too brief, injecting as they unceasingly do some spark and vim.

A pleasant array of hits from the 1950s accompanies proceedings, and they definitively demonstrate that oldies can still stir the emotions. Juno Temple perhaps handles Allen’s erratic verbiage the best of the main cast, and Justin Timberlake proves equal to the task of playing a pretentious literature student. It is just a pity that his character is also a lifeguard and a romantic lead, ground on which the former *NSYNC crooner proves rather shakier.

Do heed Wonder Wheel’s warning, and steer well clear if melodrama and larger-than-life characters are apt to raise your hackles. Otherwise, you will find in it just about enough entertainment, and some insight into the human condition. Roughly a teaspoonful. More than is found in many films, at least

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