Film Review: Wilson (2017)

The whole argument of ‘the novel is better than the film’, has the collective agreement that books are somehow better, but really the debate should be an individual one. Quite the same attitude is within the comic versus graphic novel realm. Not so much as different forms of media, as they are the same, but in terms of which is superior. Author/cartoonist, Daniel Clowes, has been affiliated with the term ‘graphic novelist’, and whether he likes it or not, we now have a new film called Wilson (directed by Craig Johnson) taken from his graphic novel of the same name. If you must be comforted, Clowes is involved with this screenplay, and the same typography is used to represent the title.

Woody Harrelson plays Wilson, a misanthropic with a cute dog. The doggo is really the love of his life, even if Wilson doesn’t embrace other human interactions with those who think the same about his dog. After his only friend and partner move to St. Louis, and his dad dies of stage four lung cancer, this is a wake up call for Wilson to find some kind of human connection. The film sees him rekindle with his fallen-on-hard-times ex-wife Pippi (Laura Dern) and connect with his biological daughter-he-never-knew-he-had, Claire (Isabella Amara).Wilson poster

Johnson is no stranger to providing dark, funny and broken characters, as he so beautifully and honestly does in The Skeleton Twins. He is also no stranger to pouring out emotions, either. Watching Wilson is like watching an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm that turns sad. This may not make much sense since, the idea of shedding a tear for Larry David is absurd when the show is about how much of an obnoxious sociopath he is. Unfortunately, with Wilson you never understand his character and why he is so ticked off to level with the film’s more softer tones.

Wilson‘s specialties are in its performances. Harrelson is believable as this character. However, ever since seeing the trailer, the idea of Harrelson as Wilson never seemed right. He comes across as an actor with a very distinct personality, although he did play a similar role in The Edge of Seventeen.  When you flip through the pages of Clowes’s Wilson, however, you do see a similarities. But Laura Dern is perhaps the stand-out, and gives the film its energy, particularly in this rough role that is unfamiliar for her. Pippi’s look and attitude makes her character so enjoyable to watch on screen. In a small but memorable few scenes, Pippi’s sister Polly is played by Cheryl Hines who plays a similar looking character to Larry David’s wife in Curb Your Enthusiasm, but is more nasty and extreme. Although it is for laughs, Hines is great nonetheless.

Where the style of Curb Your Enthusiasm doesn’t work in Wilson is through the use of non-diegetic score, earlier in the narrative. The vibe it produces makes Wilson and the film itself a neurotic stereotype. Due to its adherance to the original text, it is hard to see Wilson as a unique adaptation, let alone film. The exploration of Wilson as a misanthropic is crushed and repurposed with laughter and compassion.

Wilson is in cinemas from 25th May through 20th Century Fox.

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