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Thirty years after they served together in Vietnam, a former Navy Corpsman Larry "Doc" Shepherd re-unites with his old buddies, former Marines Sal Nealon and Reverend Richard Mueller, to bury his son, a young Marine killed in the Iraq War.
In Northern Italy in 1983, seventeen year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father's research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape.
During the early days of World War II, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds.
Kristin Scott Thomas
In the hustle and bustle of 1950s Coney Island, where the buzzing crowd comes and goes trudging slowly over the wooden boardwalks, silent stories of the everyday toilers who give life to the attraction unfold. Somewhere in a clam bar, there's the sad waitress Ginny, a one-time actress and now a suffering wife who's been given a second chance by the side of the well-intentioned but uncouth carousel operator, Humpty. On the other hand, there's Humpty's 26-year-old estranged daughter, Carolina, who left the familial nest and a preordained future seeking adventure as a mobster's wife; only to return home with her wings broken, begging for forgiveness. And from the lifeguard's high tower, where all is in plain sight, the young and charming lifesaver and hopeful playwright, Mickey, is the inadvertent but potent catalyst that binds everything together. Shattered dreams, reckless love and betrayal, all under the bright lights of Coney Island. Written by
"The heart has its own hieroglyphics." Mickey (Justin Timberlake)
Wonder Wheel is a wonder of despair juxtaposed with the cheap nostalgia and common lyricism evoked by its 1950's Coney Island setting. Ginny (Kate Winslet) is trapped in a loveless marriage with a Ralph Kramden-like carney, Humpty (Jim Belushi). Indeed, their lives are destined to come tumbling down.
In tragic fashion, Ginny is having an affair with lifeguard Mickey, who eventually falls for her step daughter, Carolina (Juno Temple). Given that Humpty wears wife beaters with a penchant to beat Ginny up, the tragic conclusions seem inevitable. True to an extent, but what writer/director Woody Allen seems to be after goes beyond the cliché into a realm of despair over bad choices and unshakeable fate, where outside forces take over once they are ignited by the principals' decisions.
As if the foolishness of Ginny's cougar relationship were not enough to spark tragedy, Carolina is pursued by the mob, an avenging force hardly to be stopped by minor characters on a boardwalk. None of this melodrama is excitingly different from many black and white TV dramas of the fifties or Allen's own Manhattan, etc., yet Allen infuses it with characters we root for because their pathos is an ingredient of the failed American dream so many of the middle class experience in their daily lives.
Allen has revived the kitchen-sink realistic dramas so successfully launched in Britain in the '50s and early '60s. Apropos of the doomed triangle of Wonder Wheel is an original kitchen-sink called Look Back in Anger (1956). Disillusionment is manifest in ironing boards and kitchen sinks, the hotbeds of despair for disadvantaged women.
Wonder Wheel is his best acting ensemble yet, possibly a result of the director taking unusual care with actors' performances.
Hardly worthy of the sometimes magical dialogue of other Allen dramadies such as Midnight in Paris, Wonder Wheel has a raw feel, a realistic tint unlike much else he has created. While rough to see characters go through calamities most of us at least have a faint relationship with, it's salutary to see the Woodman touch down with the real people and make characters that aren't his doppelgangers.
It's not funny Woody; it's real Woody, and it's wonderful.
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