In the late 1950’s, Coney Island was vanishing. Once upon a time, as during the Great Depression, even as late as the Korean War, it was a place to find love, make love and lose love. It was a sand castle city of dreams for a young sailor or Brooklyn shoe clerk to take a date, lay on the sand and tell war stories. But time, in Woody Allen’s disastrous new film “Wonder Wheel,” has passed it by. Magic icons like Wonder Wheel, an aging Ferris wheel, and Woody, have seen better days.

Our narrator this time is Mickey the lifeguard, (Justin Timberlake) not as cute as Rooney, not as smart as the mouse. He sees himself as the new Eugene O’Neill with a side dish dream of Tennessee Williams. Mickey tells us that he is “going for his masters in European drama.” Our director, the once great Woody Allen, will use some of both O’Neil and Williams and a lot of European drama in this tale. Spoiler #1: It won’t work.

Mickey will introduce you to, among others, Ginny (the wonderful Kate Winslet), a 40-something clam house waitress who survived the war years and a string of summer stock plays. Mickey and Ginny will meet on the beach and plan their dreams together in the hot sand on a cool night under the pier. Spoiler #2: It won’t work.

Ginny also survived a bad marriage that left her with a troubled son who loves setting fire to anything that will burn. Are you still with me? I mean Mickey?

Ginny, for whom hope is a curled up piece of newspaper blown down the boardwalk, is now married to Humpty, (Jim Belushi, comic John’s less talented but luckier brother) who barely has a wall to sit on.

Humpty manages the Merry Go Round, a revolving parade of chipped wooden horses.

We’re dozing. Wait! Who is this coming down the boardwalk? It’s Carolina (Juno Temple), a tiny Jean Harlow in a $45 dress, lugging a $2 suitcase. Things are looking up. Spoiler #3: They’re not.

Carolina is Humpty’s daughter by another marriage, whom he has not seen in many years. Carolina broke Humpty’s heart by marrying a fledgling gangster, described by Ginny as a “wop who got rich putting men’s feet in cement.”

It seems that the New York Feds flipped Carolina who gave them stories that put some bigger boys in Sing Sing, and now two comic book muscle men with sore feet (“Soprano’s” Steve Schirripa and Tony Sirico) are looking to put Carolina’s sore feet in a bucket of cement.

If you’ve seen the previews of “Wonder Wheel” you could almost spare yourself the monotony of sitting through the 101 minutes of the actual movie. I say almost, because you would then be missing one of the best performances of one of our most underrated female stars in films. I give you Kate Winslet as Ginny. The role itself was once played under different names, written by other writers and staged by other directors. But Winslet, who set us ajar with her “The Reader” and “The Dressmaker,” takes the wilted lettuce given her and makes a Cobb salad for the ages, full of choice bits and tasty moments.

Falling back into the bottle, near the end, she shreds the clam house uniform, whips out a negligee from her younger days, a piece of a boa and a Bette Davis cigarette, and gives us a heart breaking summer stock Blanche Dubois.

Then there is the moment where, with her hand on a telephone, she makes a fateful choice. It’s an Oscar performance worth waiting for.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and film actor.

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