Here we go again.
I’ve always felt guilty for enjoying Woody Allen’s films, especially his new ones. I’m usually very interested in what he puts together, but this film in particular really caught my interest. I was mostly interested because this was Woody’s first movie to fully take place in New York in a while. Second, the trailer looked gorgeous. This is Woody’s second film shot on digital after Cafe Society, and it looks beautiful. Also, just like every new Woody Allen movie, the cast is amazing. I was really excited to see this for a while, but then the negative reviews started coming in.
That immediately drained my excitement for this movie, and for a while, I was considering just not seeing it. I mean not seeing a movie by an alleged pedophile wouldn’t be the worst thing I’ve ever done. But, as fate had it, I was stuck in Santa Monica, I didn’t want to drive home because traffic was bad, and I needed a way to kill two hours. So, I rushed down to the Laemmle Monica Film Center, pulled out my MoviePass (I wasn’t gonna spend real money on this crap), and got one ticket for Wonder Wheel. Coincidentally, this was the same theater I saw the film Brawl in Cell Block 99, which was a sleazy 1970s throwback that felt dirty to be watching in a theater. Watching Wonder Wheel made me feel just as dirty, although for completely different reasons.
While this movie thankfully isn’t about a middle aged man dating a much younger woman (we can look forward to his next film for that gross and tired storyline), Wonder Wheel fails at being both a compelling drama and a biting satire of classic Tennessee Williams style melodramas. The film is set in Coney Island during the 1950s, which could be a very interesting setting, but Woody’s constant use of the same three locations really makes the movie get stale really fast. The colors and cinematography are beautiful, but you know the saying about polishing a turd.
Just like any bad melodrama, the characters are absolutely insufferable. Kate Winslet and Jim Belushi are absolutely fantastic, but their characters are such horrible people that you can’t even relate to them in the slightest. This is not my way of saying you can’t have films with flawed protagonists. Some great examples of this are Good Time, Brawl in Cell Block 99, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Phantom Thread. However, these characters are so evil and horrible with no redeeming qualities whatsoever that they become cartoonish. These overly evil and crazy characters are boring in the same way that overly perfect and squeaky clean characters are boring. The actors try their best to make their characters work, but the writing and directing completely fails them.
Let’s talk about Woody Allen as a person for a bit, because there’s really nothing else to say about Wonder Wheel as a film. Woody has obviously been a very controversial figure in the film industry. I don’t need to tell you about the many allegations of sexual misconduct against him, because you’ve likely heard of them. I’m not claiming to know if any of these allegations are true or not, but you really can’t do anything but believe the victim in these situations. Woody’s recent comments on the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment situation have been very telling about his stance on the subject. He said that “You also don’t want it to lead to a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself. That’s not right either.” This statement doesn’t just come off as a half assed defense for these monsters, but tries to completely undermine the severity of the situation being talked about, and it really only makes Allen look worse.
Along with this incredibly problematic and gray statement on the subject, Roy Price, the CEO of Amazon’s Film division, and Woody’s main source of film distribution, was recently in the news for sexual harassment claims made against him. With the questionable public statements and molesters for colleagues, you can see why it’s hard to believe Woody is so innocent. One of the biggest issues in this industry right now is that even though people like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski have been accused of these horrible crimes (or in Polanski’s case, actually committed), a ton of big name actors will still line up out the door to work with them.
Supposedly liberal and progressive actors like Alec Baldwin and Kate Winslet will just ignore all of these things so that they can work with these “artists” despite their misconduct. Kate Winslet in particular has worked with both Polanski and Allen, and her attempts at defending Allen as a director and person came off as incredibly pathetic. The incredible double standard that these supposed “activists” have for working with these pedophiles is ridiculous, and the whole “separate the artist from the art” excuse should no longer be accepted. If there is even the slightest possibility that one of these “artists” is hurting or molesting anyone, then there should be no possible way for them to work in this industry until their names are completely cleared, plain and simple. That goes for everyone, from Woody Allen and Roman Polanski to Mel Gibson and any other wife beater that is allowed to still work in Hollywood with no consequences.
This movie is terrible, the person who made it is terrible, and I feel terrible for seeing it. My entire intention behind seeing this movie was to kill two hours, and I still feel like my time has been wasted. If you’re really desperate to see this, just buy a ticket for Lady Bird or Call Me By Your Name and sneak in.
Also, before you ask, yes I will be seeing A Rainy Day in New York, but only for Timothee Chalamet and Elle Fanning. It’s probably going to be offensive and smutty, but I might as well. And no, I will not be paying for it.