- Eddie Harrison
- 5 June 2017
Woody Harrelson plays the eponymous oddball in Craig Johnson's comic-book comedy
After the success of Ghost World in 2001 was followed by a lukewarm reception for follow-up Art School Confidential, the graphic novels of Daniel Clowes have found no takers for the big-screen. Adapting his own work for new venture Wilson, Clowes finds a sympathetic director in Craig Johnson, whose The Skeleton Twins offered a similarly offbeat, outsider feel, and also an ideal leading man in perennial counter-culture favourite Woody Harrelson.
Fresh from his scene-stealing supporting role as a caustic teacher in The Edge of Seventeen, Harrelson is well placed to play an oddball like Wilson, an impossibly awkward character who believes that human beings have lost the gift of social communication, but whose own relationships leave much to be desired. After his father's death, Wilson endures various unsuccessful romantic interactions before getting in touch with his ex-wife Pippi (Laura Dern), only to find that she concealed the birth of their daughter from him. Now a teenager, Claire (Isabella Amara) is distinctly underwhelmed when her original parents show up, but Wilson is determined to make their dysfunctional family function at all costs.
Wilson is a familiar character, a misanthrope in the manner of Bill Murray in St Vincent, ripe to have his rough edges humanised by the challenges of family life. It's to Harrelson's credit that Wilson's occasional charm just about outweighs the unpleasant aspects of his character for most of the 94-minute runtime, as he staggers through one excruciatingly painful situation after another.
The problem is that once the life-lessons appear, the black humour drains out of the story, and Wilson's final diversion into comforting sentiment drifts too far from the prickly feel of the film's early scenes. And although Clowes has a fairly unique view of the human condition, he never gets beyond Wilson's off-putting surface to uncover what makes this particular loser tick.
Limited release from Fri 9 Jun.