Review: 'Wilson', Starring Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, and Judy Greer

Please note: This is a re-post of my review from the 2017 Sundance Film Festival

Based on the satirical graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, Wilson follows its title character (Woody Harrelson), a lonely, computer-hating man who complains about the lack of community in this day and age. He has a tendency to pester people who obviously don’t want to be bothered (he sits next to a man on a completely empty train and starts rambling). An incredibly honest man, and by honest I mean he says whatever he wants even when the situation doesn’t call for his words, he’s a misanthrope who has no one but his dog and dog-sitter, Shelly (Judy Greer). After reconnecting with his ex-wife of seventeen years, Pippi (Laura Dern), he discovers that he has a daughter, Claire (Isabella Amara), who was adopted by another couple. The three of the reunite and gives Wilson a shot at a family and something to leave behind.

Wilson begins with a lot of promise and a good grip on its sense of comedy. Harrelson is genuine in the role and has a knack for playing this kind of character who’s a little bit on the neurotic side. During the first act, the humor is definitely there and Harrelson’s strange and awkward interactions with people make for some really good laughs. When he reconnects with his estranged wife and they find the daughter they never knew, it seemed like I knew where director Craig Johnson was taking the film.

An unexpected turn of events following a visit to see Pippi’s sister, Polly (Cheryl Hines), changes the course of the film and throws a wrench in what had been a decently enjoyable story up to that point. Even the laughs stopped and Wilson began turning into something it didn’t start off being. The direction of the film eventually gets lost in the third act and the weight of the events that happened don’t receive the attention they deserve.

This lack of direction makes the plot feel empty and a bit messy by the film’s finale. The film is less satirical and more of a heavily edited and simplified version of what it was perhaps supposed to be. Based on the way the story veered off its path, it’s safe to say that it felt like there was more of the story that was supposed to be fleshed out and developed and never was. Wilson ultimately feels incomplete and lacks fluidity. It misfires and derails without really getting to any particular point and loses a lot of momentum because of it.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5