***1/2 out of five stars
The third film written by Daniel Clowes and based on a graphic novel of his (following Ghost World and Art School Confidential), Wilson is the story of a foulmouthed man who tells it like he sees it.
The film’s lead character, Wilson (played by Woody Harrelson), is a middle-aged man with a misanthropic streak, no filter, and a distain for the age of social media. Fate leads him to reconnect with his ex-wife Pippi (Laura Dern), and it is revealed that they have a long-lost daughter named Claire (Isabella Amara). Also featured in Wilson’s misadventures are Pippi’s two-faced sister Polly (Cheryl Hines) and the kind dog-sitter Shelly (Judy Greer).
Wilson is a wildly entertaining movie and should appeal to fans of Clowes’s other works. Like many protagonists in Clowes’s stories, Wilson is a comedic yet well-defined misanthropic figure. Wilson isn’t just your standard jerk, he says exactly what he thinks outside and even shouts profanity in public. One could say he’s an older and even exaggerated version of the kind of sociopathic characters Kevin Smith used as sidekicks in films like Clerks and Mallrats.
But there’s a more serious and even emotional side to Wilson (both the film and the character). At the start of the film’s third act, Wilson is sent to prison, and after his release three years later he tries to repent for past mistakes. We see that his time in prison made him a more social person. Reduced to having less than he did at the start of the film, he manages to turn a new leaf while still retaining his honesty and somewhat cynical edge.
Wilson should appeal to fans of Daniel Clowes and those who aren’t afraid to indulge their inner cranky old man.
P.S.: Clowes fans should note that the Ghost World movie is getting a deluxe Blu-ray release courtesy of the Criterion Collection on May 30.