Wonder Wheel, the 47th film written and directed by Woody Allen, has played to press, and the first US reviews are up. They come as news of the Wonder Wheel red carpet in New York is cancelled, in the wake of allegations against Amazon Studios head Roy Price.
Reviews highlight a powerhouse performance by Kate Winslet and the play-like nature of the film. Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro has received praise for making the film look great. Although many have noted the similarity to Blue Jasmine and Allen’s favorite themes.
Indiewire loved Winslet, and gave it a B+, but calls it a dramedy?
Winslet often remains in the frame as characters abandon her offscreen, and the tragedy resonates even as the absurdity of scenario lingers. This is a mesmerizing portrait of being abandoned by the world, fighting for a new role to play, and winding up more alienated than ever before. Say what you want about the storyteller, but the stories speak for themselves, and “Wonder Wheel” proves they still have a lot to say.
Screen Daily raved about Winslet, and the look of the film.
It would be going too far to say Wonder Wheel is an instant Woody Allen classic, but it’s a reminder that he’s still a force to be reckoned with and a great director of actresses especially.
The Hollywood Reporter loved Winslet, and noted it’s stageplay look. They summed it up as Blue Ginny.
While theatrical references are batted about to Chekhov, Shakespeare, O’Neill and the Greeks, this visually luscious, 1950s-set melodrama is mostly ersatz Tennessee Williams, this time around with Kate Winslet as the tragic Blanche DuBois stand-in. Her boldly unfettered performance keeps you watching, even if underlying sourness, tonal uncertainty and a key casting misstep diminish the effectiveness of this Amazon Studios release, likely cramping its box office.
Variety said it was neither major or minor Allen, living around the level of films like Bullets Over Broadway and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Strikingly acted by a cast of players who don’t just walk through the Woody motions (though at least three of them can be caught doing the stutter); they grab their roles and charge them with life. “Wonder Wheel” isn’t a comedy — on the contrary, it often feels like the most earnest kitchen-sink drama that Clifford Odets never wrote. It may or may not turn out to be an awards picture, but it’s a good night out, and that’s not nothing
Vanity Fair loved the look of it, but it was again, familiar.
There is simultaneously a beautiful movie and a good play hidden somewhere in Woody Allen’s new melodrama, Wonder Wheel, a slight and clunky period piece that offers teasing glimpses of something more rich and interesting
The Guardian praises Winslet, but says it retreads old Allen ground.
It’s by no means the worst of Allen’s later films (Cassandra’s Dream remains unrivaled in that department) and the flashes of brilliance from Winslet and stunning visuals do lift it but there’s an overwhelming, existential pointlessness to it all.
The Wrap compares Winslet to Cate Blanchett, byt calls this the lesser film.
Blanchett got her Oscar for “Blue Jasmine” because Allen gave her the opportunity to break down and mentally unravel in a colorfully histrionic fashion in practically every scene. He has given Winslet a similar assignment and opportunity here, and she enters whole-heartedly into many demanding long takes where Ginny reveals her dashed hopes and her strident needs.
They Playlist found a lot to like, although they charge the film as autobiographical to Allen.
“Wonder Wheel” is a kaleidoscope of lights and delights with best-in-class cinematography, perfect casting and impeccable period detail. Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro lovingly lights actors’ faces with stained-glass-window colors. Kate Winslet has rarely been better in a part that lets her talent unfurl and bloom in new ways, and Jim Belushi is great as her character’s schlubby, unsatisfying husband. Its setting in 1950s Coney Island allows costume designer Suzy Benzinger room to play, with dresses that elicit gasps of pleasure.
Vulture, and the wondeful David Edlestein, had a lot of problems with the film, calling it familiar and disjointed.
In Wonder Wheel, Ginny complains constantly of migraines — a metaphor for existential pain — and says things like, “My heart is pounding with jealousy.” Tragic plaints seem more like the Higher Kvetching.
Overall, it seems Winslet is great, the film’s production was top notch as usual. The reviews of the rest of the cast vary, and the Blue Jasmine comparisons are loud and clear.
Rotten Tomatoes has the film at 63 at the moment. For this decade, it’s just below Café Society and far behind Blue Jasmine and Midnight In Paris. But better than Irrational Man, Magic In the Moonlight, To Rome With Love and You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger.
Reviews come of the heels of accusations against Amazon Studios head Roy Price. The US red carpet of the film has been cancelled (the film screening is going ahead) and it looks the Studio’s future is in doubt, as there seems to be news all the time about new direction and slate changes.
Wonder Wheel, for the moment, is set to be released in the US on 1st December. Wouldn’t be surprised if that changes.