Woody Harrelson Margo Martindale Laura Dern Isabella Amara
Here’s a movie that has great potential with Director Craig Johnson (Skeleton Twins) and starring Woody Harrelson, a success in many films. And Wilson does start out being quite funny as a lonely character connecting only with his dog, and becoming irate when his only friends, a couple, tell him of their plan to move out of the city. (“How could you do this to me?!”) Indeed, self-centeredness and self-entitlement turn out to be his mantra for the rest of the story, which essentially kills it.
Obnoxiousness is Wilson’s middle name. He bothers people on the bus or on the street who obviously are engaged in their own activity or work, insisting they talk to him. In a virtually empty bus, he takes a seat right next to a man who is clearly working, insulting his response to Wilson’s question about what he does. He says the most outrageous things to people who have mildly rebuffed him, such as, “You’re a toxic soul-drawing vampire.”
When his father is dying in the hospital, Wilson ignores his critical condition and entreats him (the man is unconscious) to say he loves Wilson.
One of the only really engaging parts of the film Wilson is the brief period when Margo Martindale is on camera. She lights up any film she’s in, and here, they have a comical exchange where she is tech savvy (he’s amazed at what she does “at her age”), helping him locate his ex-wife, Pippi (Dern). She carries on with the task despite his insults of her and Pippi, and locates Pippi’s sister, who will be a lead in finding Pippi.
Harrelson does his usual good job in capturing a character’s essence and bringing it to fruition. That it doesn’t quite work here is likely due to the script by Daniel Clowes, which calls for him to be too persistently obnoxious and rude without any redeeming qualities. After all kinds of disasters, the story then delves into deeper emotional areas, but the viewer hasn’t been prepared, so can’t empathize, and the scenes fall flat.
Another place where the film hits/misses at the same time is in Laura Dern’s character Pippi. Dern is excellent in portraying a woman who has been through major hard times, but still has hope and is trying to make her life better. Pippi and Wilson have some touching moments together, which are largely successful, but when Pippi, against her better judgment but egged on by Wilson, visits her sister, once again the script calls for an over-the-top scenario.
Another strong point in the film is in Isabella Amara’s characterization of Claire, Wilson’s and Pippi’s daughter given up for adoption. (I’m not giving anything away; it’s in the previews.) Amara is completely believable and noteworthy in showing the mixture of Claire’s reaction to the sudden appearance of bizarre parents in her conventional, well-to-do suburban world. Yes, she does show some of their DNA, but nurture by her adoptive parents has helped her achieve good sense.
Overall, I think about how the movie does something similar to what the Wilson character does; it says a nice thing, followed by a blistering, withering comment. This is supposed to be funny, but smacks more of cruelty and social ineptitude.
I so wanted this movie to be funnier and snappier.
Grade: D+ By Donna R. Copeland