Starring Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Judy Greer, Margo Martindale, Isabella Amara, Cheryl Hines
It remains to be seen if director Craig Johnson is a one hit wonder following oh so wonderful film The Skeleton Twins. His follow-up Wilson, starring Woody Harrelson, is another quirky family film, but without the comprehensive structure. In fact, Wilson feels downright episodic, strung together in a way that pulls the viewer from one setting and circumstances to another. Author and screenwriter Daniel Clowes might be to blame. This isn’t Clowes first graphic novel adaptation, he burst onto the scene in 2001 with Ghost World. After watching Harrelson in supporting roles like The Hunger Games series or last years The Edge of Seventeen, audiences thought they wanted more of Harrelson, but Wilson cautions, too much of a good thing can spoil the fun.
Wilson (Harrelson) is the type of guy who walks right up beside another man at the urinal, even if all the others are free, and starts a conversation. He generally likes conversing with people, despises cell phones and electronics. He is a divorced, jobless, dog owner who reconnects with his ex-wife Pippi (Dern) after her stint as a hooker and a drug addict in Los Angeles. When Wilson questions her about aborting their child 22 years ago, she reveals that she actually had the baby. Wilson’s life changes instantly, “I’m a father?!” he shouts confusingly. Claire (Amara) in an overweight, gothic looking teenager who lives with a rich family. Wilson and Pippi stalk the young girl in hopes of meeting and creating some sort of relationship. This of course turns disastrous for the recently reunited couple.
Contains some generally bizarre and funny moments.
The early parts of the film, getting the audience acquainted with Wilson’s particularly colorful personality, contains some generally bizarre and funny moments that feel right out of a SNL skit. Harrelson talking in baby-dog voice to a woman who can’t keep her hands of his puppy. The Wilson character just talks to everyone he meets with a candor that’s shocking, absurd, and usually offensive when it comes to women. This behavior only works so long, and after one too many adventures with Wilson, it becomes exhausting, also like a SNL skit that doesn’t know where to end. The very stuff we found funny in the beginning, is now annoying. Wilson isn’t a character with an arc, he stays exactly the same through the entire film, getting himself into one obnoxious situation after another. That’s why it feels episodic; “What will Wilson do this week”.
Besides a full dose of Harrelson just being Harrelson for a full-length feature, Laura Dern is playing totally against type. Last year she appeared in multiple films as a stereotyped supporting wife given little to no screen time or impact on the story. Redeemed here and given a part with some personality, not to mention a crazy look and even a fight scene with her resentful, judgmental sister played by Cheryl Hinds. Wilson keeps the audience in suspense on the direction of the plot. After so many subplots, Wilson becomes a tired screenplay, reaching the threshold of what the viewer is willing to accept from this character. Johnson managed to perfectly blend dark comedy with serious subject matter in The Skeleton Twins, but here he can’t find that delicate balance.
The very things you find funny in the first hour, you will resent Wilson for in the later.