REVIEW: Wilson

Fox Searchlight Pictures

There is a common misperception that all comic books and graphic novels surround superheroes with flowing capes and mystical weapons. However, the reality is that there are many well-crafted stories with real characters in every day real situations. Well, that might be a stretch because while Wilson is certainly set in our ordinary world, Wilson is anything but ordinary.

Wilson is lonely and neurotic man who has found himself nearing the twilight of his years without anyone to share his life with other than his dog. When his only two friends decide to move to the paradise known as St. Louis and his father dies, Wilson realizes he needs to make some changes. When he seeks out and finds his old girlfriend Pippi, he soon discovers that she had their child, even after she told him she got an abortion. After Wilson finds their now teenaged daughter Claire (Isabella Amara), he tries to build an instant family to help fill the void in his life. However, things take a drastic turn and set Wilson on a different path towards finding that elusive happiness he craves.Somewhere buried in Wilson is a good and basic message that we all could learn from. Sometimes, we search the world over for our version of happiness when it might very well be right in front of us all the time. Unfortunately, this message is often shrouded through a somewhat convoluted and disjointed tale. Characters are never truly developed beyond the typical clichés. We have the lonely and quirky guy with a recovering druggie ex-girlfriend and an equally unique daughter they’ve never met. While some of the events are believable, other situations are too far-fetched. And when the film takes a sharp turn at the mid-way point, I was really left trying to figure out if I like any of these characters enough to care.

Woody Harrelson (War for the Planet of the Apes, The Edge of Seventeen) saves this movie from obscurity as he elevates it through his on-screen presence. He is given some great dialogue and his quirky and partially grumpy old guy performance genuinely is funny at times. Laura Dern (Jurassic Park, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) also turns in a respectable performance as Wilson’s ex-girlfriend Pippi. She is not a likeable character but that might be due to a lack of development. The closest we get to discovering the real person is in one scene Pippi has in the kitchen with her sister Polly (Cheryl Hines, Curb Your Enthusiasm). A brief reference to her father and the obvious difference in life styles between the sisters is all we get to try to figure out why Pippi is the way she is. Judy Greer turns in her usual cheerful performance with a touch of modern-day hippy as dog sitter Shelly. However, I found her eventual romance with Wilson a little bit unbelievable, if not forced and overly convenient.Director and writer Craig Johnson started to establish himself in the indie dramedy genre with his first two films, True Adolescents (2009) and The Skeleton Twins (2014). However, he’s left the writing for Wilson to Daniel Clowes, the author of the original graphic novel on which Wilson is based. Johnson does an adequate job with the source material but nothing that will really make him stand out. Wilson won’t be his breakout film and the director may need to make some bolder choices in the future if he wants to make a name for himself in the genre.

Ultimately, I can’t recommend Wilson. It wasn’t a bad movie but it was flawed and, worst of all, it’s rather forgettable. With a lack of truly likeable and in-depth characters, the viewer doesn’t feel compelled to feel anything for them as they make their way through the story. This might be worth a rental on a night you have nothing else to watch if for no other reason than to enjoy Harrelson’s performance.

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