Wilson is an overwrought comedy about a misanthropic loner who speaks his mind in every situation and prides himself on eschewing the conventions of contemporary society. Woody Harrelson plays the eponymous character, and he brings his usual likability to the role. Harrelson makes Wilson into a the kind of guy who would drive you crazy if he was your friend or co-worker, but who would also make you laugh a dozen times a day. His acting make the movie.
He is helped considerably by his supporting cast, which includes a frazzled Laura Dern, a luminous Judy Greer, and a bemused Isabella Amara. (Regular readers will know Judy Greer is my favorite actress, and for the first hour of this film, I was worried that she’d be relegated to a brief scene early in the film. She returns.) These women all give their all to this film, and even when the events of the plot become hard to swallow, they are there giving us something genuine to connect to emotionally.
The plot: Wilson is a lonely, aging man who regrets his choices in life. He seeks to reunite with his ex and rebuild his long lost family. Along the way he insults and annoys every stranger he comes into contact with and tries the patience of his few friends. The inexplicable turns of the plot make the film a bearable watch, so I won’t spoil them for you. Suffice to say, anything can happen here and does.
That’s not to say I didn’t laugh throughout the film. Roger Ebert once said that if a comedy makes you laugh, it works, and you have to give it credit for that. Consider this credit given. But I wish I had laughed more from cleverly set-up and delivered jokes and visual gags and less from incredulity about what was happening on screen. A laugh is a laugh, I guess.
Wilson’s need to be needed is palpable. He wants people to approve of him for who he is in all of his prickly, ungainly, glory. He would, I think, be more needed if he ever did anything for anyone other than himself. People don’t need him because he’s never shown that he has anything to offer. He does nothing to make himself a positive part of anyone’s life. No wonder he’s alone. Only one person in the film finds something necessary in Wilson for their life, and he almost scuttles that too, out of a selfish need for something… else. Ah well. The world takes all kinds, I guess. So do the movies.