Movie Review: 'Wilson'

Mar 30, 2017

At first glance, Wilson, both the movie and the title character, seems cynical and misanthropic. But I don’t actually believe that’s the case.

Our protagonist, Wilson, laments the loss of communication between people in society, frustrated by computers and smartphones, and he insists on engaging people in conversation-- even, or maybe especially, when they clearly have no interest in engaging with him. This, naturally, leads Wilson to view most other people as jerks, oblivious to the fact that this is exactly how he comes across.

So it’s easy to think that the movie, Wilson, based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, has disdain for its characters. But two things argue against that. One is that Wilson genuinely does want to connect with people, he’s just really, really bad at it. The other is the performance of Woody Harrelson as Wilson. Harrelson is just almost impossible not to like, regardless of how rudely he may come across, and it’s his performance that carries the movie—we actually don’t mind being around this guy, despite his massive flaws.

Eventually, Wilson reconnects with his ex-wife, played expertly by Laura Dern, and discovers that he has a daughter whom Dern gave up for adoption sixteen years earlier. Wilson, with his deep desire to connect, sets out on a mission to find this daughter and maybe, somehow, have a relationship he’s always wanted. It’s not spoiling much to say he does find her, and what follows is both kind of sweet and fraught with danger for Wilson, mostly because his need for connection overwhelms his better judgment in nearly all cases.

Ultimately, Wilson is far from some deep meditation on our disconnected world and where it places us as people—it’s just about this guy who’s not very good at interacting with the rest of the world no matter how much he wants to. But Woody Harrelson saves the movie from what could have been a cynical rampage, and brings it down to a real, human level, showing us a man with incredibly poor judgment, but incredibly good intentions.