Wilson – Big Fish, Wrong Pond

I am a big Woody Harrelson fan and he can be a funny actor given the right films, The Edge of Seventeen being the latest example. This film is based on a graphic novel named Wilson by Daniel Clowes. Of course I haven’t read it but the trailers looked funny.

Synopsis: A salty curmudgeon who is discontented with how his life has stalled is shocked to discover he has a now-teenage daughter put up for adoption by his ex-wife after their split. He tries to reunite the family, but his abrasive personality makes getting reacquainted unpleasant for everyone. (Rovi)

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, and Isabella Amara

Writer: Daniel Clowes

Director: Craig Johnson

Rating: R

Running Time: 94mins

Trailer: 

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From the trailers, it is easy to see that Wilson (Harrelson) is a polarizing character. Whether this film succeeds or fails depends solely on his likability because it doesn’t offer much besides him. Wilson is a miserable loner who was disappointed of how his life has gone. Things changed for him after the death of his father. Feeling alone, he tries to rekindle his relationship with his ex-wife Pipi (Dern). In doing so, he learns about a daughter he didn’t know he had, a girl who Pipi gave up for adoption named Claire (Amara).

Wilson has quite an eccentric personality that may rub some people the wrong way. He just sees the world differently in that it is not the way it used to be. In fact it was getting worse. He thought the advent of technology and social media was destroying society by eliminating face to face contact and simple conversation. He resented people which was probably how he got to where he was so the way he went about this through his many interactions with people made him seem like an awkward jerk. Most of these exchanges were hilarious but the point he was trying to make often lacked the appropriate impact due to the lack of any circumstances for his actions.

Characters simply put up with him as he strung them along to fulfill his own loneliness. Wilson and Pipi were probably not the best people when they were younger which was why Pipi gave Claire up for her adoption instead of having an abortion like she told Wilson. The idea of a normal, suburban family kind of went against his beliefs so it was odd to see him together with Pipi and Claire. The film tried to make a point by playing off the contrast between them and Pipi’s sister Polly’s (Cheryl Hines) family but even that lacked impact.

The film started to fall apart halfway through when Wilson went to prison. The tone was rather inconsistent throughout the film but it was more so here. In fluctuating between over sentimentality and mean spiritedness, it wasn’t quite sure what it wanted to be. Despite all that, Wilson was the best part of the film, by default. Besides Wilson, characters were underdeveloped and were more of a means to an end, dragging the story in many directions.

Harrelson was great as Wilson, making him likable and compelling to watch even with his many flaws. He was mostly hilarious thanks to his great comedic timing and deadpan delivery of Wilson’s eccentricities. He took most of the spotlight here but the other actors were good as well. He and Dern, as Pipi, had chemistry with Dern having fun playing a wilder character than usual. Amara was good as Claire but she didn’t really do much. The scenes with the three of them together were fun to watch but we didn’t get enough of them.

Overall, this was a decent film, featuring a great performance by Woody Harrelson as the film’s titular character but is let down by the film around him.

Score: 7/10

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