Created by: Woody Allen
Directed by: Woody Allen
Written by: Woody Allen
Produced by: Letty Aronson, Edward Walson, Erika Aronson
Other cast: Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Robert C. Kirk
Release date: December 15, 2017
Running time: 101 minutes
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.
The title, Wonder Wheel, in addition to referring to the Coney Island Ferris Wheel, is metaphorical for the characters’ behaviors and mindsets. When describing the title, Woody Allen stated “The view is beautiful from the Wonder Wheel, but you’re going no place. It has an element of romance to it, an element of beauty to it, but ultimately, an element of futility.”
Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro took inspiration from the Coney Island paintings of artist Reginald Marsh in creating the look for the film.
With the exception of Ginny and Humpty’s apartment, the movie was shot entirely on location at Coney Island. Many of the existing businesses were altered to resemble shops or restaurants from the 1950s.
Set on Coney Island in the 1950s, the Wonder Wheel is still in operation, but the Parachute Drop, seen in the background, ceased operation in 1964 and survives only as a tower. It’s nicknamed the Eiffel Tower of Brooklyn.
Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro created a contrasting color scheme between the two main female characters. Ginny has a warmer red/orange palette resembling the sun and symbolizing her attachment to the past. For Carolina, lighter shades of blue were used, symbolically linking her to the future in accordance with the “magic hour,” the time between the sun setting and the moon rising.
Costume designer Suzy Benzinger initially had difficulty in creating a lifeguard outfit for Justin Timerlake’s character Mickey since the photos of 1950s Coney Island at her disposal had few clear shots of the lifeguards. She eventually got the information she needed after reaching out to Marty Alvin, a former Coney Island lifeguard who was interviewed by Esquire Magazine in 1949.
Many of the costumes worn by the extras were original era garments gathered by costume designer Suzy Benzinger.
First collaboration between Kate Winslet and Woody Allen; they were previously set to work together on Match Point (2005) before Winslet dropped out.
The slang word “mazuma” is used. From the Yiddish for money, it was a popular slang term of the mid-century.
The film served as the closing night selection at the 55th New York Film Festival, on October 14, 2017.
At exactly 73 minutes and 19 seconds, in the scene where Justin and Kate are sitting on a boardwalk bench and talking about the birthday present watch, some kind of small bird quickly flies just in front of the lens, between the actors and the camera. It can be spotted in just one frame.
This film was released on December 1, 2017 the same day Titanic another movie starring Kate Winslet was released for a week’s engagement to commemorate the films 20th anniversary of release.
Mickey : Nothing you could tell me could put the slightest shadow on this evening.
Ginny : I’m not 35. I’m 38. I’m 39.
Mickey : Well, that’s a very hot age for a woman. I’m a very lucky guy.
Humpty : Talked to Carney and Ryan. They’re goin’ fishin’ Labor Day. You wanna go?
Ginny : No. I don’t like fishing.
Ginny : Oh, God. Don’t tell me you got me a present.
Carolina : How often do you turn 40? It’s a milestone!
Ginny : It’s a tombstone!