Wednesday, March 22, 2017

“Wilson”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of the new comedy “Wilson”, starring Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern and Judy Greer.


When a man tries to reconnect with his ex-wife, how will he deal with the ramifications of his actions?


Following the death of his elderly father, Wilson (Harrelson) is forced to confront his new reality:  he is now completely alone in life.  He has virtually no friends and the only current “relationship” he has is with his dog, Pepper.  Wilson has only himself to blame for this; he is distinctly unpleasant to be around because of his aggressively in-your-face behavior, which no one seems to appreciate – although some may be more capable of tolerating it than others.    One such person is Shelly (Greer), a neighbor whom he occasionally hires to dog-sit Pepper when he’s not around. 

One of Wilson’s great regrets in life is the failure of his marriage to Pippi (Dern), who abandoned him 17 years ago and moved to Los Angeles; pregnant at the time, she allegedly had an abortion.  In an effort to remedy his interminable sense of isolation, Wilson actively seeks out his ex-wife, whom he believes may now be a drug addict working as a prostitute.  Wilson finally locates Pippi, who is actually a waitress, and is quite reluctant to establish any kind of friendship with her ex-husband; however, as they catch-up, Pippi makes a remarkable revelation:  she never had that abortion.  Instead, Pippi gave birth – a daughter, whom she immediately put up for adoption. 

Delighted at the thought he’s a father, Wilson decides he must now look-up his daughter Claire (Isabella Amara).  Wilson and Pippi locate Claire, who is living in an expansive house with a well-to-do family.  Despite her privileged life, Claire is deeply unhappy –  in part because her parents ignore her but also because she has no friends due to being overweight.  The three set off on a road trip in an effort to form a relationship based on their biological connection – however, when Claire turns up missing, her parents have Wilson arrested.  Convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to three years in prison, can Wilson survive the experience and have a normal, happy life?  


“Wilson” is a comedy that strains to be funny – and speaking of straining, it is certainly a strain to find much positive to say about this movie.  In a too-small role, Judy Greer is the one warm redemptive ray of sunlight that possesses the humanity that the remaining characters lack.  But that’s about it.  The rest of the time it is rather bleak and Wilson himself is the kind of protagonist you just want to punch in the face (which is what makes his scenes in prison so deeply satisfying); it doesn’t help that Harrelson overacts the part on top of that. 

It would seem that “Wilson” is trying to get by simply by being weird.  Epic fail.  We are supposed to like this character because of his affinity with his dog, who appears to be the only real and truly loyal friend he has (all of his other so-called “friends” really don’t seem to like him all that much – and sincerely, who can blame them?).  Once Wilson finds himself in prison, are we supposed to feel sorry for him or is the audience expected to find this funny?  If Wilson was a more likeable character, we’d root for him; if he was at all funny in his antics, this situation might be amusing.  Instead, we are left with a turn in the story that is simply unnerving, not to mention baffling.   

The movie is based on a graphic novel that apparently has a sufficient-enough following that folks decided it would be worth turning into a film.  This wound up being a terrible idea.  It is too bad because “Wilson” can boast of a terrific cast, but all of them seem to be trying way too hard to put lipstick on this pig and the screenplay (written by the creator of the comic) is undeserving of such an effort.  While a curmudgeon can be funny (Walter Matthau was at his best as such characters), Wilson comes across as more obnoxious than humorous.  It is only March, but this may be a candidate for Worst Films Of 2017. 

Wilson (2017) on IMDb

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