A different angle of Wonder Wheel

The content of Woody Allen’s latest film isn’t being talked about as much issues around the writer-director himself. In towns I know, the film is being shown little, even though it’s just been released in Britain; it’s been skipped from some film magazines.

I know people who won’t see it, because of what’s being said about Woody. But that means that the four main actors and all the others involved in making Wonder Wheel don’t get their work seen, and if it’s not in cinemas, we can’t make our own decisions. The film also feels quite separate from the 25 year old allegations about Woody.

I felt the ones against Blue is the Warmest Colour were more apt, for they were concurrent with and about the movie.

I am not sure what I believe about Woody Allen, or feel about these hash tagged campaigns.

I hate all injustice, abuse, inequality.

But I also hate witch hunts, public career destruction, and false accusation.

Much of these campaigns seem to come from angry and imbalanced sources; there is much hate fuelled behaviour.

They conflate various allegations in Hollywood between quite different situations.

I haven’t warmed to the interviews of Woody’s children, and their statements that if you work with Woody and don’t denounce him that you are wrong – even that you are hurting them, and aiding an abuse allowing culture.

The vehemence of this has turned some actors, it seems, from remaining neutral or even kind of defending decisions to work with Woody into making statements that seem to upend that. I have noted some very carefully phrased speeches about this, encouraging empowerment and listening to those who speak out – which I applaud. But I’m worried that the reverse of the wildfire spreading against abuse is that if you want to keep your career, you’ll denigrate and distance from those several people who have been recently accused.

Of course we should want abuse to stop, and for people to be free to speak out against it.

I also see forgiveness and healing as key, for all involved. Rehabilitation not retribution.

But these often get omitted, if not refused. And it means that the accused – especially those wrongly so – are destroyed without hope.

I have noted female inappropriate behaviour in Hollywood – such as public unsolicited gropes, which press and perpetrator laughed over. Is it different or better because a woman’s doing it?! NO!

There is a big debate to be had about our laws and attitudes, and to unpick the contradictions around sexuality in our culture, which is both promoted and prohibited. We need a healthier one based on respect and permission, not fear and commodity, and which rebalances male and female.

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As for the film: Woody’s films do have much in common with each other, and what felt enjoyable and powerful to me several years ago has much less appeal. But Woody is often wise, and his films have been helpful on a personal level.

I saw Wonder Wheel because of Kate Winslet. I saw her previous roles in this. Revolutionary Road is also about a 1950s American former actress who is now living an unwanted domestic dull life. Mildred Pierce, set just 20 years earlier, is also a restless poor waitress – another red haired role – with a difficult relationship with her estranged daughter.

With both her “failed” actress roles, I felt quite an irony. Kate is widely well considered at her job: in the Picturehouses Recommends booklet, Woody is quoted as saying: “I try to cast actresses who have enormous range and depth and intensity. There are only a limited number of actresses in the English language that are that deep and that great. Kate Winslet is one of them.”

We don’t see Ginny act to know if it is quality or discovery which is lacking. Kate says that Ginny pretends her life is a role, but that the sadness is it really is her life. But can’t we live in layers, and who says what is truly real? I note that Ginny found solace in the memory of her acting – it’s what she goes to when unhappy. Talk of theatre with Mickey starts to bring her alive. Like April in Revolutionary Road, Ginny – wife of Humpty! (do you have that egg nursery rhyme in America?) has a travel bug, urged by her lover. She believes that going to a new place will free her – but none of these three stories ends well for Kate’s character. Usually, Woody is wise and positive; although the end is ambiguous, I didn’t leave the cinema how his films normally make me feel.

When Mickey speaks of tragedies that crush, we suspect we’re in one. No, our protagonists will not be able to squeeze out from the wreckage, stronger, to try again. They’re earmarked for the crusher; the past will repeat, and they cannot learn from nor expiate their mistakes.

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I’ve written several pieces before on whether Kate’s roles are about women who go mad or die; Wonder Wheel fits this. And when she’s doing that strong but challenged vulnerable person in a drama, she is at her best. This is the film of hers that I’ve enjoyed her in most in some years.

I don’t see the climatic act of her character as being as shocking as the film wants you to see it. Ginny’s act is not what Tiny’s is. She tries to do something, and doesn’t. Who knows if she would have been successful if she had? I also thought that the other possibility of the film’s ending meant that her deed would have no affect on the outcome. The choices of the person concerned had already been made before Ginny; and ultimately what happens, if that is truly the conclusion, is due to those choices and entirely other persons.

Wonder Wheel makes me wonder about the line between theatrical and cinematic. Indoor scenes were too much like a play – the sort I don’t like. It’s not the long scenes of dialogue, or that one of the characters turns to the audience to tell us their thoughts: I like that. I did feel that Mickey ought to bookend and stay consistent by giving us a monologue at the end, but his talk to camera narration switches off. I didn’t like that staid, false, very egged intensity; the one room melodrama. Wonder Wheel, penned recently by Woody, seems to be like the theatre of fifty of more years ago. The staple plays I don’t go and see.

I’m left not only wondering about the wheel of denigration turning in the media, but also that sad turn of you’ll die in the doldrums, or trying to escape them. It’s not a message that I choose to believe or purport.

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