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
Woody Allen had fond memories of visiting Coney Island as a child. This partially inspired him to make Wonder Wheel. See more »
When Justin Timberlake is on his lifeguard stand talking to Kate Winslet, a modern tanker boat cruises by in the distance. See more »
Coney Island, 1950's. The beach, the boardwalk. Once a luminous jewel, but growing relentlessly seedier as the tides roll in and out. Summers I work here on Bay 7. Comes the fall, I'm a student at New York University going for my Master's in European drama. I'm Mickey Rubin. Poetic by nature. I harbor dreams of being a writer. A writer of truly great plays, so I can one day surprise everyone and turn out a profound masterpiece.
[to the camera]
Anyhow. Let me get to the ...
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These days, even the college-educated don't recognize the classics. Spike Lee can film LYSISTRATA, but so long as he moves it to Chicago and calls it CHI-RAQ, no one makes the connection. Instead, they complain that he is slandering Chicago. Well, no doubt, that's what the municipal authorities said about Aristophanes at the time. In this movie, Juno Temple flees from her mobster husband to take refuge with her alcoholic father, James Belushi, and step-mother, Kate Winslett and her pyromaniac son from her first marriage; they've got marginal jobs. The story is told from the viewpoint of Justin Timberlake, who spent the war in the navy. Now he's a lifeguard, studying to be a playwright, conducting an affair with Miss Winslett and falling in love with Miss Temple.
Woody Allen's script makes several references to Eugene O'Neill, and were they living on Nantucket and complaining about how their lives were ruined because the father had made too much money playing the Count of Monte Cristo to attend to his art, everyone would recognize this as LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. However, Mr. Allen has set it in the neighborhood he grew up in and made the fact that they're so broke they're living in a bankrupt freak show house an important plot point, so this will either be overlooked or seen as blasphemy.
This is one of Mr. Allen's serious movies. I join the general population in not being as fond of those as the ones that make me laugh out loud. Yet I take a good deal of pleasure in his recreation of 1950s Coney Island (although his "Greenwich Village hovel" is remarkably clean for the era) and his clear-eyed vision of a world, now vanished, that existed more surely than the one I live in now sometimes seems to.
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