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Wilson (Sundance London 2017 Review)

Wilson, directed by Craig Johnson and written by Daniel Clowes, and based on the graphic novel of the same name by Clowes, is a solid comedy about a lonely, uncomfortably honest man with a heart almost as big as his mouth.

Wilson (Woody Harrelson) can come across as a bit of a rude asshole. He’s the type of guy that strikes up conversations with strangers even if they’re wearing headphones, picks the urinal right next to you and compliments your dick and just, in general, has no qualms about sharing his views on people, society and life in general with just about everyone.

It’s a character that’s easy to misunderstand and easier still to dislike, but Harrelson’s performance finds the right balance between obnoxious and earnest. Wilson is a lonely man in search of family and companionship which is easy to relate to. It also helps that characters often explicitly confront Wilson, pointing out and challenging either the rudeness or just irrationality of his behavior.

He’s someone you’ll probably want to punch at first, but then slowly warming up to. The plot concerns Wilson seeking out his estranged wife Pippi (Laura Dern) and discovering he has a teenager daughter, Claire (Isabella Amara) who was adopted by another family.

Pippi has been struggling to overcome her problems with substance abuse and get her life back together, while Claire has to deal with both her unattentive foster parents and school bullies who mock her because of her weight. Wilson deftly handles those tricky subjects. It doesn’t sugarcoat anything, but it also doesn’t linger on these issues so long as to cause tonal dissonance or mood whiplash.

Wilson’s bluntness and his desperate attempts to cobble together a family unit of sorts make up most of the comedy. There are plenty of laughs to be had and the characters are interesting and endearing enough to keep you invested when there are no jokes. As is always the case, not every joke is a hit and given the nature of the movie’s humor, the misses can feel pretty awkward – but you’ll find yourself laughing more often than not.

If you can get past some of Wilson’s more unsavory eccentricities and find the sweet, lonely man behind them, you’ll probably enjoy Wilson quite a bit. Harrelson and Dern are great, the jokes mostly land and perhaps most importantly, it has heart.

Rating
7.0
Pros
  • Harrelson is excellent in a very tricky role
  • Funny and has heart
Cons
  • Not everyone will be able to connect to Wilson

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