Looks like Woody Allen may be throwing his ’50s-era fedora into the awards-season race. On Wednesday morning, Amazon Studios, which last year became the first streaming studio to win Oscars with Manchester by the Sea and The Salesman, dropped the trailer for Allen’s next movie. Wonder Wheel (not to be confused with the superhero movie Wonder Woman or Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck) finds him returning to familiar ground—his old neighborhood—with a New York–centric story featuring a mishmash of zany, intertwining characters.
It’s 1950s Coney Island with the typical flourishes: crowded beaches and an amusement park, with the titular Wonder Wheel as the movie’s unifying structure. Justin Timberlake plays a young lifeguard with a mildly Brooklyn accent and aspirations to become a playwright. Jim Belushi is a cantankerous, middle-aged man (so, basically Jim Belushi) named Humpty. Juno Temple is Humpty’s estranged daughter who has to hide from gangsters who’ve put a hit on her. Tony Sirico and Steve Schirripa from The Sopranos play the gangsters, because of course they do. And Kate Winslet is at the center of it all as an actress turned waitress who is also Humpty’s wife. It’s all very Woody Allen, which could be a problem.
For good reason, Allen’s work hasn’t had a solid awards push since 2011’s Midnight in Paris, which won Allen an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, but Amazon Studio’s December 1 release date for Wonder Wheel is a telling sign that it expects the film to garner some serious critical attention; it’s also the closing-night selection for this year’s New York Film Festival. Winslet, in particular, could carry on the tradition of actresses getting awards buzz off of an Allen movie, following in the footsteps of Diane Keaton, Penélope Cruz, and Mira Sorvino. Jim Belushi seems to think so:
“Kate is going to win the Academy Award,” he told Las Vegas Magazine on Friday. “I was standing to the side watching this scene where she’s talking to her daughter, and I’m watching this monologue thinking to myself, ‘This is the moment. I’m watching an Academy Award–winning performance.’ She’s so brilliant.”
You know what? Good. Give Kate the Oscar, because after this she’s going into James Cameron’s Avatar vortex.