Laura Dern and Woody Harrelson at restaurant in Wilson
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Sundance Movie Review: Wilson

Adapted from a graphic novel, WILSON, directed by Craig Johnson (THE SKELETON TWINS), is unfortunately not a story about the famous volleyball from the movie CASTAWAY. Rather, it follows a gregarious curmudgeon named… believe it or not Wilson (Woody Harrelson). Wilson is one of those guys that will sit directly beside you in an otherwise empty movie theater, or talk your ear off when he sits next to you on public transportation. Unsurprisingly, he also has no filter and says whatever comes to mind, regardless of its effect on his audience. However, there is one thing that will stop Wilson in his tracks, his ex-wife Pippi (Laura Dern).

When Wilson finally reconnects with Pippi, after an unsuccessful seventeen years trying to get over her, she discloses that instead of getting an abortion, she actually gave her and Wilson’s baby up for adoption. This reinvigorates Wilson, setting him off with new purpose in life… to reestablish his family with Pippi and connect with his now-teenage biological daughter.

Laura Dern and Woody Harrelson hiding behind mannequins in Wilson

WILSON is fun and entertaining until it isn’t. Dern and Harrelson’s chemistry is hilarious on-screen and the best part of the film is when the two of them are reconnecting and spying on their biological daughter. However, once Laura Dern’s character leaves the film, she takes the fun with her. The film almost gives you whiplash as a quick turn of events involving Pippi’s sister (Cheryl Hines) sends the third act careening off the rails. The tonal shift is jarring, as the film stops being humorous and turns into a weird, messy finale that is sure to leave audiences wondering what in the world they just watched. Judy Greer can do no wrong, but a side plot involving her dog-sitting for Wilson is another poorly written miscalculation, that asks us to root for a character that has hardly been properly introduced.

Harrelson and Dern’s performances inevitably outshine their source material, as the film’s sloppy third act will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Some things are left better for the page, and WILSON is a prime example of something that works better as a graphic novel than a film. Craig Johnson’s previous films excelled at least partially because he wrote the script and was bringing his own vision to life. Hopefully Johnson’s next endeavor will include more of the humor and sincerity he brought to SKELETON TWINS and less of the oddball randomness of WILSON.

My Review: D+/C-

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