Thursday, March 23, 2017

Another loner living on the margins

Based on graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, Wilson gives Woody Harrelson a much-deserved chance to carry a movie. Harrelson plays the title character, a loner who's part misanthrope and part zhlub, a guy whose rebellious streak has extended long past its expiration date. Wilson qualifies as one of those marginal figures that sometimes make it to the pop-cultural center ring, something on the order of Harvey Pekar, who became the subject of the movie American Splendor -- except Pekar actually did something: He wrote comics about his life. Wilson doesn't seem to do anything, aside from hang around his cluttered apartment and strike up inappropriate conversations with strangers. Evidently on his own since his marriage dissolved 17 years ago, Wilson seems to have nothing going for him. Mildly funny and ultimately able to find some pathos, Wilson nonetheless proves a dull entry into the world of downbeat literature that Clowes helped create with Ghost World, which became a movie 16 years ago. Despite its repetitive feel, the movie deals with a variety of events: the death of Wilson's father, Wilson's reunion with his ex-wife Pippi (Laura Dern), and the discovery that Pippi gave their infant daughter up for adoption. Wilson thought the baby had been aborted. As Wilson tries to worm his way back into Pippi's life, they drop in on Pippi's sister (Cheryl Hines), a visit that erupts into an implausibly brutal fight. Wilson and Pippi's weekend with their biological daughter, whom they track down at Wilson's insistence, results in Wilson's imprisonment for kidnapping. That's a lot of plot for a movie that doesn't feel as if it's going anywhere. Judy Greer becomes a late-picture love interest as the movie reaches its mildly sunny conclusion. A bearded Harrelson gives himself over to the role, holding the movie together with a shambling walk and hints of Wilson's decency. It couldn't have been an easy task because Wilson isn't the most intriguing of characters. Director Craig Johnson (Skeleton Twins) fully enters Wilson's world, but never really convinces us that it's worth joining him.

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