First Hit: Although well-acted, there's too much telling versus showing in this film.
I’m not a fan of longish monologues where the actor is telling their history to another actor as a way to tell the audience the necessary or semi-necessary information about themselves. It can work if kept to a minimum, but here it is incessant.
Much of what was told was unnecessary for the character to be seen more fully. The long monologue of Ginny (Kate Winslet) telling her lover Mickey (Justin Timberlake) as to why she felt like she was a disaster of a woman was totally unnecessary. It didn’t add to the film because Winslet is fully capable of making the audience believe her depth of sadness without all the information.
Additionally, I’m not a big fan of talking to the camera as a way to move the film along and to provide a backstory to what we are seeing and why. But Woody Allen (writer and director) felt it necessary to have Mickey talk to the camera several times and the first offense is at the beginning of the film which took me right out of film from the get go.
What we have is Ginny who is unhappily married to Humpty (Jim Belushi) who is an angry drunk so she keeps him sober. They're raising Ginny’s son Richie (Jack Gore) from a previous relationship. Richie is a handful because he’s a pyromaniac. Ginny feels both trapped and grateful for her current relationship with Humpty.
Humpty’s daughter Carolina (Juno Temple), from a previous marriage, shows up one day because she ratted out her gangster husband to the cops. She’s decides to visit her dad because she’s broke and because her husband won’t look for her at her dad's because of the strained relationship.
One day Ginny meets up and talks with Mickey and they start an affair. Hoping to enjoy love in her life once again, she becomes jealous when Carolina also becomes interested in Mickey.
This is the set-up and as we wade through lots of explanatory dialogue we a story is presented in the Coney Island boardwalk setting.
Winslet is excellent. It is her facial expressions that really shares the story despite all the lines and dialogue she's given. Belushi is perfect in this role. A barely educated guy who is a bit brutish, thinks the world of his wife, likes fishing and loves his daughter. Gore as the pyro son is an odd character in the film but he carries the role well. Timberlake is strong as the affable lifeguard who is honest in his dealings with the women. Temple is fantastic. I enjoyed her scenes and her look fit perfectly with the story. Allen wrote his typical screenplay filled with unnecessary justifying lines for the behavior of his characters. I really liked many of the sets and scenes that he put his characters in. The noise of the boardwalk and the overriding ragtime music set a wonderful tone.
Overall: This is not one of Allen’s better films because the excessive dialogue got in the way.