Six and a half months ago I was wowed by 20th Century Fox’s presentation at Cinemacon, and particularly by the footage from Michael Gracey and Hugh Jackman‘s The Greatest Showman (12.25), a musical about P.T. Barnum. It looked and sounded like a major wow — “a big, brassy, up-spirited musical…aimed at the ticket-buyers, full of feeling, going for the gold and the glory.”
A little more than three months later (on 6.29) the trailer popped. It felt a little bit corny and obvious, but I figured Fox marketers were just trying to appeal to the lowest-common-denominator lowbrows and that the first award-season promotions would begin sometime in…oh, late October or thereabouts.
This morning I was told in so many words that Fox doesn’t regard The Greatest Showman as Best Picture material at all, and that the big Cinemacon promotion was strictly about getting exhibitors excited about selling tickets to a big, splashy, hoo-hah musical. Oh. Congrats, Fox marketing, for conning me into thinking that The Greatest Showman might be an X-factor musical that would appeal to people like me as well as the schmucks.
From a friend: “They tested The Greatest Showman last night in South Jordan, Utah. They were offering 10 dollars to any woman between 18 and 24 that would attend. I’m guessing they’re looking to attract the Zac Efron crowd.”
It sounds unkind if not cruel to say this, but the invisible subtitle of Woody Allen‘s Wonder Wheel, which I saw this morning, is “I got nothin’ left to say, but I’m gonna say it anyway.”
It’s not a substandard or dismissable film, but it’s not grade-A either. It’s basically a thrown-together stew of familiar Allen-esque elements and influences — a little Chekhov-Seagull action, a little re-frying of Blue Jasmine desperation mixed with A Streetcar Named Desire, a dash of Mary Beth Hurt‘s “Joey” character in Interiors, some gangster seasoning from Bullets over Broadway plus some onions, garlic, celery and sauteed peppers and a little Crimes and Misdemeanors.
But it has some magnificent cinematography by the great Vittorio Storaro. It’s totally worth seeing for this alone.
Wonder Wheel is basically a gloomy stage play — don’t trust any reviewer who calls it a “dramedy” — about a love triangle that ends in doom and despair. For my money it felt too stagey, too “written”, too theatrical. Every doomed character seems to be saying lines, and I just didn’t believe it. I never stopped saying to myself “the writing hasn’t been sufficiently finessed.”
Wonder Wheel‘s tragic figure is poor Ginny (Kate Winslet), a 39 year-old might-have-been actress on her second marriage, living in a Santo Loquasto-designed Coney Island apartment with a pot-bellied lunkhead named Humpty (Jim Belushi), miserable as fuck with a waitress gig at a local clam house and coping with a strange pyromaniac son whom I didn’t care for and wanted to see drowned.
There are two wild cards — a Trigorin-like would-be playwright/lifeguard named Mickey Rubin (Justin Timberlake), and Carolina (Juno Temple), Humpty’s unstable daughter who shows up in scene #1, looking to hide out after yapping to the FBI about her gangster ex-husband and concerned that friends of her ex might want to hurt her.
Early on Ginny falls for Mickey and vice versa to a certain extent. The problem is that Ginny starts to imagine that Mickey can somehow help her escape from her miserable life. But Mickey is just looking for writerly experience and not interested in being anyone’s savior, except perhaps his own.
The second problem is that soon after meeting Carolina Mickey starts to think about easing out of his affair with Ginny and maybe….no, he doesn’t want to be a two-timing shit so he puts it out of his mind, but you know what they say about Mr. Happy. He wants what he wants.
Wonder Wheel is a lament for life’s unhappy losers — for those marginally talented people who never quite made it artistically, or who made one or two big mistakes and never recovered, and who are stuck in a dead-end job or marriage that is making them more and more miserable. It starts out saying “these people are not only unhappy, but nothing they can do can free them from the mud of misery.” It ends up saying “you thought these folks couldn’t be less happy? Well, we figured a way!”
Bob Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, has sought to dispel rumors about TWC shutting down or being sold with a rote gung-ho statement claiming that things are A-okay, etc. He also emphasized that he’s much more interested in low-rent mulch than TWC’s aspirational, adult-level films like The Current War, The Upside and Mary Magdelene.
“It is untrue that the company or board is exploring a sale or shutdown of the company,” Weinstein said earlier this afternoon. “Our banks, partners and shareholders are fully supportive of our company. Polaroid is moving forward as planned with a release date of November 22, followed by Paddington 2 on January 12. The first Paddington grossed over $75 million and we expect even greater success for Paddington 2. Test screening scores are through the roof. War with Grandpa starring Robert De Niro is scheduled for February 23, 2018. Business is continuing as usual as the company moves ahead.”
In other words, Bob’s attitude about Alfonso Gomez-Rejon‘s The Current War (11.24.17), Neil Burger‘s The Upside (3.9.18) and Garth Davis‘s Mary Magdelene (3.30.18) is “tough shit, fellas…I’m running the show now, not Harvey, and I’ve never much cared for upscale movies aimed at people who read reviews. I’m a bottom-feeder, which means that with Harvey gone you guys are shit out of luck.”
Polaroid is a horror film, Paddington 2 is an semi-animated family film and The War With Grandpa is a coarse, low-rent comedy.
Assaultive behavior is about assertion of dominance, and it can’t happen without an absolute indifference to the feelings of the recipient of said behavior. Any sort of indifference to feeling is essentially cruel. As a victim of unwanted sexual attention** when young, I have abhorred cruelty all my life. I am no less repelled by reports of Harvey Weinstein‘s behavior toward women than anyone else. What’s happening now is a combination of a clear-light moment for women everywhere blended with a realization that Harvey is but the tip of an iceberg.