21 March 2017 | bkrauser-81-311064
Messy and Unfunny
If anything Wilson, the story of a lonely middle-aged man reuniting with his estranged wife to meet his daughter for the first time, accomplishes something no movie has ever done. It manages to take Woody Harrelson, a jewel of the large and small screen, and make him wholly unlikable. This is no easy feat, especially considering that his character's only real crime is being a watered-down Marc Maron caricature. The man cavalierly ponders the big questions and graciously oozes cookie cutter wisdom to anyone within earshot. He thinks he's being avuncular but really he's just being really, really annoying.
This problem extends to the film itself. It thinks it's intelligent and it thinks it's giving us earth-shattering insights into the human condition. It lazily employs an unstructured narrative of Wilson-centric coming-of-age clichés and pads its screen time with tonally discordant moments that fly at you fast then disappear without consequence. The results is a frustrating soup of characters, conflicts, themes and rickety-old shtick that goes no where and accomplishes nothing.
Of course this could be the point; the movie purports to be about life. Ergo, if life is messy then so is this movie. Yet the films total lack of focus seeps to its DNA with scenes and plot points that announce themselves as loudly as possible and climax too quickly. In one scene, Wilson (Harrelson) learns that his only two friends (Rajskub and Gelman) are moving to St. Louis. He doesn't take it well, prodding them until they erupt in what felt like years of pent-up frustration. It's a good little scene but we're never given any time to savor it before the movie switches gears like the slides of a carousel projector.
And at the front giving the presentation is Wilson who, for better or worse is the smartest person in the film. No one dares call him out on his bulls**t, especially not Pippi (Dern) his wife who's just barely keeping things together after a series of bad life choices. At times, she reacts like a prisoner to Wilson's somewhat terrifying mid-life crisis. But by the end of the story she succumbs to the idea that her surly former lover may just be wiser beyond his years.
Yeah no, the man's a petulant, mean-spirited, less clever, less literate Bukowski character made near-flesh by someone who saw a Woody Allen movie once and thought, "gee, how can I take out all this pesky pithiness." I guess in that regard Wilson can be accredited for one more accomplishment. It managed to take the daily struggles of a middle-aged white man and make them appear trivial and redundant.