Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2017. Amazon Studios, Gravier Productions. Screenplay by Woody Allen. Cinematography by Vittorio Storaro. Produced by Erika Aronson, Letty Aronson, Edward Walson. Production Design by Santo Loquasto. Costume Design by Suzy Benzinger. Film Editing by Alisa Lepselter.
It’s Coney Island in the 1950s, and while all of New York gathers in crowds on the beach underneath bright yellow umbrellas or enjoys the distractions of roller coasters and fun houses, employees of the amusement park live in meager dwellings adjacent to the park’s rides. Right next to the Wonder Wheel lives a perpetually angry repairman (Jim Belushi) with his wife (Kate Winslet) and her pyromaniac son from a previous marriage, their miserable existence interrupted by the sudden appearance of Belushi’s daughter (Juno Temple) from his late first wife, herself on the run from her gangster husband. Winslet has just started an affair with the sexy lifeguard (Justin Timberlake) who gives her such a happy escape from the gritty realities of her life that she falls head over heels in love with him. When Timberlake eventually grows tired of her attempts to turn a fling into something legitimate and starts noticing the lovely young Temple, Winslet reacts with bitter jealousy that culminates in a choice that puts her in a moral gray area that, like many elements in this film, is highly familiar to writer-director Woody Allen’s devoted viewers. The many strands of the plot feel awkwardly compiled from earlier movies, a common complaint of films made during Allen’s late period, but it’s interesting that his increasing penchant for period films has resulted in weaker narratives but increased visual strength: anyone with an interest in seeing this one should definitely do so on the big screen, as Vittorio Storaro’s dazzling camerawork has the park’s bright colours constantly intruding on the characters’ personal spaces in the most beautiful ways. The acting is for the most part impressive, though the long single takes that mark the director’s best films are marred by Belushi’s always being out of step with the other actors; Winslet is always better with everyone other than him, her excellent performance reaching its height in a wonderful (if awkwardly included) final scene. It feels like the auteur is looking to give her a Blue Jasmine, but this one is not smoothly stitched together and a lot of its elements work on their own and not together as a whole.