Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Movie Review: "Wilson" (2017)

Director: Craig Johnson
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
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A lonely man with no social filter tries to rekindle his relationship with his estranged wife and discovers he has a teenage daughter, one she put up for adoption 17 years ago.

"Wilson" is directed by Craig Johnson, who directed the 2014 film "The Skeleton Twins," which we found enjoyable despite its depressing, dark premise. It is written by Daniel Clowes, who also wrote the graphic novel on which the film is based. It stars Woody Harrelson as the titular character Wilson, a lonely man with absolutely no social filter or any manners in general. He always has something to say, and whatever that may be is positively, absolutely more important than whatever anybody else is doing. After his best and only friends move to St. Louis and his father passes away, Wilson, feeling lost, decides to seek out his estranged wife Pippi, played by Laura Dern, through her estranged sister Polly, played by Cheryl Hines. Since they have been apart, Pippi has had battles with narcotics among other things. Once reconnected, Wilson learns he and Pippi have a daughter, one she lied about aborting and actually put up for adoption 17 years ago without telling him. After meeting with a private investigator, who is really just some dude with Google, Wilson and Pippi track down their long lost daughter named Claire, played by Isabelle Amara, and want to be in her life regardless of what she wants.

We were somewhat looking forward to this movie after seeing its trailer a few times. It seemed like it might be right up our alley, a smart, satirical comedy about an oddball, disconnected character with no social filter wandering through a connected age, grumbling at things like Yelp and Ancestry.com in between his bitch-fests about how life did him wrong. Though it attempts to be those things, it sadly doesn't succeed. Wilson as a character most certainly does say whatever comes to his mind whenever he wants, that much we got correct. He is also a condescending prick and almost wholly unlikable on top of it. Usually, Woody Harrelson does a good job in making somewhat abrasive, jerk-off characters seem charming because of his incredible talent as an actor. He did this with great success in "The Edge of Seventeen." Though he gives a good, extremely convincing performance as this neurotic, perpetual man-child, the tone comes off as more mean-spirited than wise.

There is something about the way the humor is delivered that just doesn't work for us. For example, there's a scene where, after espousing the belief that we as a society are more broken and detached now than we have ever been, Wilson strolls along the street and walks past a coffee shop with his faithful pooch Pepper. Sitting down at the only table where someone is already clearly working on their computer, Wilson has obviously stumbled upon an unwilling participant in their pleasantries. As Wilson attempts multiple times to start a full-on conversation with this man, he says he is busy and proceeds to work. Instead of saying "have a nice day" and leaving, Wilson then berates him and calls him an asshole, among other things. This is the entire crux of "Wilson" as the whole movie consists of him bitching about life and whining about not having friends. He is desperately lonely, but his motivations for finding a friend even feel somewhat selfish because it would seem he just wants someone to take care of him when he's old and to cement what little legacy he will leave behind once he's dead. Apart from Harrelson, Laura Dern also gives a good performance as Pippi, who has fallen on troubled times and is barely holding herself together as it is. When Wilson, a tornado of sour and dower comes traipsing back into her life, she understandably gets both angry and concerned, but simultaneously comforted by her past. Finally, most of the technical aspects of the film are fine and it is shot well, so no complaints there. It's the narrative and pacing that pose the biggest problems for us.

We went into this movie hoping to laugh and left feeling depressed more than anything. We even felt a little angry at the direction the story went and how it all panned out in the end. "Wilson" isn't a long film, but there were still times where we were irritated and wanted to check our watches to see if it was almost over. It wants to have its cake and eat it too by trying to say something about the disconnection of our world, but does so with a disingenuous main character and little to no redemption. It doesn't do anything, it doesn't say anything, and it really isn't much of anything at all. The film overall is not an enjoyable experience to watch and that's disappointing because of the caliber of talent it has and because we were looking forward to it. Maybe the graphic novel is better.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 4/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~39%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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