Movie Review: “Wilson”
Wilson (Woody Harrelson) is a lonely man that struggles to connect with other people, though not for his lack of trying. He believes in respecting other people, being polite, giving others your undivided attention when in conversation, and he gets very offended when others do not treat him with the same respect. When he gets offended, he is brutally honest with the individual, to the point where they never want to speak to him again. He means well and has an ideology that others should follow, but his temper has resulted in him having a lonely life.
Fed up with his lonely lifestyle, Wilson decides to track down his one true love. Pippi (Laura Dern) was the love of Wilson’s life, but randomly left him years ago without any sort of explanation. He quickly makes contact with Pippi’s sister, who informs him that Pippi had been pregnant and had a baby around the time that she left him. Wilson learns where he may be able to find Pippi, but that he also has a daughter! He has been desperate for true, loving, inter-personal relationships for a very long time, and now he has the chance of having everything he’s ever wanted. Thus, he sets out to reignite his relationship with Pippi and to meet his long-lost daughter for the first time.
The Pros & Cons
Woody Harrelson (+8pts)
Supporting Characters (-5pts)
Laura Dern (+4pts)
Pro: Woody Harrelson (+8pts)
Woody Harrelson is an absolute joy to watch in almost everything he pops up in. Wilson is a very complex character which I will get into later, but if anyone can pull off all of this character’s complexity, it is Woody Harrelson. This character is filled with so much pain, loneliness, innocence, pride, stubbornness, fury, and joy. Some of those things seem like they contradict each other, but that is what makes this character so complex. The problem with such a complex main character is that, if the actor cannot pull it off, the movie will fall apart.
Woody Harrelson absolutely nailed this character. During the character’s happiest moments, you (as a member of the audience) can still feel his pain. Similarly, during the character’s darkest moments, you can feel his innocence and will pity him. There are so many complex layers to this character and Woody Harrelson was absolutely fascinating to watch as he brings this to the screen. It seems that, whenever I review a movie that Woody Harrelson is in, he always ends up being one of the movie’s strengths. This movie is no different. He gets a ton of screentime and is captivating through it all.
Con: Supporting Characters (-5pts)
Wilson was definitely a strength for this movie, but the same cannot be said for most of the supporting characters. This movie is absolutely packed with side characters for Wilson to interact with. By having so many characters, there simply was not enough time to develop them all. This would be fine if the filmmakers had the screen-time to at least develop a few, but they really only had time to develop Wilson and Pippi.
We are then left with several supporting characters that are not very interesting or entertaining. They each have potential, but with so little development, there is nothing for audiences to sink their teeth into. While I thought most of the supporting characters had potential, two characters I would have liked to have seen more of were Shelly (Judy Greer) and Claire (Isabella Amara). Claire has lived a pretty messed up life, and the relationship between Shelly and Wilson was definitely a unique one. Developing these two things could have added a lot to this story, but the filmmakers had too many characters for them to be able to to do this properly.
Pro: Laura Dern (+4pts)
After Wilson, Pippi is the next most interesting character, and Laura Dern did a fantastic job in the role. Like Wilson, Pippi is a complex character. She loves Wilson and their daughter, but she has her fair share of issues. Laura Dern was able to play all of this in a way that was interesting to watch and she had a solid chemistry with Woody Harrelson.
Pippi and Wilson are an embodiment of the phrase “misery loves company”. These two characters are perfect for each other for that very reason. They are both dealing with tremendous pain and regret, and they both want to give their long lost family a new chance. Laura Dern portrays her love for Wilson, while recognizing his demons, and managing her own. She does all this in a very natural way and it made for two characters and a relationship that was very compelling.
Con: Dramedy (-6pts)
I felt that the filmmakers struggled to find the right tone for Wilson. It is definitely a drama about a depressing character, dealing with a lot of pain, who audiences will sympathize for. He is also a very opinionated man who gets frustrated easily and always makes sure his brutally honest voice is heard which can provide a lot of awkward comedy. The filmmakers focus on these two aspects of the character in different scenes. Rather than try to blend these two tones (drama and comedy) together, the filmmakers constantly switch focus back and forth to a point that almost confuses the audience.
In any given scene, audiences will not know if they should expect humor, or pity. Both of these tones work well separately, but it would have been nice (and would have felt more natural) if the filmmakers found a way to blend these things into one dramedic tone that was consistent throughout the film. By not blending these together, the audiences are left with a movie with an inconsistent tone and an unsatisfying conclusion.
Pro: Wilson (+8pts)
Wilson was such a fascinating character. He is severely depressed, severely lonely, severely desperate to make new friends, severely stubborn with his beliefs, severely intolerant of any sort of disrespect, and severely vocal about his frustrations. He ends up being a pretty unpredictable and unique character with an ideology that audiences will be able to relate to. He is not the nicest guy when people rub him the wrong way, but he has an innocence with his expectations of others that is borderline naive and will make audiences sympathize with him.
He is a fascinating character who is played masterfully by Woody Harrelson. There are a ton of awkward situations that he finds himself in and are awkward in the best way. They will cause audiences to either laugh at or pity him, but either way there will be a reaction. Whether you love this movie or not, this will be a character that leaves an impression. You may even just see our society, and the norms of how we interact with one another, in a new light.
Con: Timeline (-6pts)
In my opinion, this might have been this movie’s biggest issue because it is, indirectly, the cause of all of the movie’s problems. This movie takes place over a long period of time. I do not want to specify exactly how long to avoid spoilers, but know that it takes place over the course of many years. In the span of those years, Wilson is bound to meet many people and find himself in many awkward situations.
By taking place over such a long period, the filmmakers had to introduce several side characters but there was not enough screen-time to flesh any of them out. Additionally, the film was intended as a dramatic comedy, but Wilson experiences a lot of dramatic moments through these many years. As a result, the filmmakers throw comedy in whenever possible, but have to focus on the heavy drama. The side characters and the tone were addressed as separate cons, but the cause of these issues (I believe) was the sane. I think this story would have been much better suited as a television series. That way, there would be enough time for comedy while fleshing out the drama and the side characters. By squeezing all of this into one movie, the filmmakers bit off more than they could chew.
Grade: C+ (78pts)
I always like a good character story and Wilson might be one of the more fascinating characters I have seen in a while. He is naive, lonely, brutally honest, has a strong ideology about respect, and has a big heart. This is a very complex character that no ordinary actor could pull off. Woody Harrelson, however, is no ordinary actor. He pulls this character off magnificently, with all the subtle complexity and pain. It was so compelling to watch him in this role, and he got a great co-star in Laura Dern.
Laura Dern plays Pippi, the long lost one true love of Wilson. She is a complex character in her own right, and Laura Dern does a great job of conveying the character’s pain and guilt to the audience. Unfortunately, the filmmakers tried to do too much with too little time. They covered a big portion of Wilson’s life and, by doing so, they cluttered the movie with side characters that could not be developed and sacrificed the desired daramedic tone. The film’s titular character was fascinating, as was the actor playing him, but the filmmakers simply did not have enough screen-time to do everything and, by trying to squeeze everything in there, the film suffered.