There’s an old saying: It’s nice to take a stroll down memory lane, but you wouldn’t want to buy a house there. At 82, Woody Allen has become memory lane’s most famous homeowner. For years, the writer-director has returned to the nostalgia-soaked New York of his youth. But in his latest — the turgid, inert Wonder Wheel — he’s moving in place as lazily as the Coney Island Ferris wheel of the title.
The film, which is being distributed by Amazon Studios, is a ’50s melodrama about love, jealousy, and the shattered dreams of a working-class couple played by Kate Winslet (shrill, with a spotty outer-borough accent) and Jim Belushi (a reclamation project that doesn’t quite work). It’s the second marriage for both, and like the heroine of a bad Tennessee Williams play, she longs for more — to be seen. Then she is, by a hunky NYU graduate student who moonlights as a lifeguard (Justin Timberlake). Unfortunately, he also falls for her on-the-lam stepdaughter (Juno Temple).
The love triangle is stagy and unfolds with way too many complications and betrayals. It’s undercooked even by the filmmaker’s own late-career standards. Yes, Coney Island has never looked more gorgeously golden-hued (thanks to cinematographer Vittorio Storaro), but Allen has seldom been less sharp. C–