| June 26, 2017

A truly great film has the power to change with its audience. Most people know the type of movie; a hilarious comedy on its best days or a profound drama during those darker times. Even with the same script and same performances, the movie manages to read differently. At times, it seems Wilson, the tale of misanthropic Wilson (Woody Harrelson) whose life is forever altered when he discovers his estranged wife, Pippi (Laura Dern) never went through with the abortion, but gave up their baby for adoption. Through a series of hijinks, which bring the whole “stranger danger” thing to mind, they track down the now-grown baby (Isabella Amara) and try to form a relationship. The question of “second chances or is it too late?” hangs over the course of the movie, but Wilson is never able to emotionally engage its audience enough to provide a satisfying answer, or even make viewers care about finding one.

At the heart of Wilson is a deeply talented cast that suffers several missteps in the film’s direction, betraying any real authenticity to its characters or its story. Even Harrelson’s acerbic delivery of the material falters as the film trudges on, a difficult complain to have with the film’s mere 94 minute running time. While it would be easy to commend Harrelson for his “Oscar the Grouch come to life” style of delivery, the film benefits from a variety of supporting players, such as the always-charming Margo Martindale who is able to make a standout part out of roughly 5 minutes of screen time. Unfortunately, the directionless of Wilson’s life and the movie Wilson‘s narrative, any supporting cast does not stick around long enough, abandoning Harrelson’s titular grump, an opportunity some audience members may wish they’d had themselves.

Ultimately, the film pays the price for its aimlessness. Anchored by some remarkable performances, the film does not entirely understand what to do, besides show off its cast. Profound moments, including action that directly informs the film’s conclusion, are tossed off with a line or two of dialogue and never given the proper weight necessary to make them resonate. What this leaves the audience with is fleeting characters and missing motives, all due to the somewhat questionable direction of Craig Johnson, who impressed with The Skeleton Twins but isn’t able to strike that same emotional power with Wilson. Instead, we are treated to a little over 90 minutes of misery masquerading as comedy, but never completely able to rise above it.

There are times when Wilson is able to skate by on the charm of its cast, but more often than not, the film feels like a chore. When pressed to describe the film in a single sentence, the only thing that really comes to mind is, “Ghost World with a middle-aged white guy playing the part of meandering, misanthropic youth.” It’s a part that doesn’t quite seem to fit. Harrelson manages to make it engaging enough, but Wilson just feels underdeveloped in too many areas, making its underwhelming nature a sad inevitability.

Wilson arrives on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD June 30 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

About the Author:

Calhoun Kersten is a down-home North Carolina boy these days, mustache comb and all. Equal parts disarmingly charming and stunningly good looking, he enjoys horror films, nachos, and sharks. If you're interested in more of his depravity, please check out one of his many blogs.
Filed in: Video and DVD

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