Review / ‘Wonder Wheel’ (M) *** and a half

TELLING a tale of love and life against a dramatic foreground of passion and domestic turmoil, the screenplay for this 1950s melodrama may remind filmgoers of the plays of major American 20th-century dramatists – think Edward Albee, Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller.

Carolina (Juno Temple) arrives at the Coney Island apartment where the relationship between her father Humpty (Jim Belushi) and his 39-year-old wife (not her mother) Ginny is never far from conflict. A recovering alcoholic with a mob background, he runs the carousel. Now waitressing in the café, she was an actress divorced after an infidelity, leaving her pregnant with Richie (Jack Gore) who, at age 11, likes lighting fires.

Beach lifeguard Mickey (Justin Timberlake) is also studying to become a writer. Which gives him a point of contact with Ginny whose stage roles have been minor. Humpty has not been taking care of Ginny’s libido. The result of her meeting with Mickey is inevitable.

It turns out that Carolina is married to a mobster who has sent two goons to bring her back. On a rainy day, Mickey gives Carolina a lift to the café where she also is waitressing. What’s developing is by now not hard to foresee.

Using these characters, Woody Allen has built a film with strong dramatic values using stylistic conventions that don’t hamper the story’s forward progress.

I leave the best for last. It is Kate Winslet’s portrayal of Ginny. Magnificent. Splendid. Wonderful. It surely merits at least a nomination for the next Oscars, if not the big prize.

At Dendy, Capitol 6 and Palace Electric

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