I’ve almost caught up with the movies that I missed in 2017, but still have plenty to go from 2018. This is one that I heard about right around when it was released in theaters, but never got the chance to seek it out. It’s a dark comedy and the third movie based on a Daniel Clowes comic after Ghost World (which I loved) and Art School Confidential (not so much). I would rank it right in between the two films as it does have a handful of problems, but the comedy works well and it does a good job to make the audience feel for this quirky-but-obnoxious guy played by Woody Harrelson.
It also helps that Wilson has an overall interesting life despite being someone who has next to zero friends. The film starts out with what he feels like his only friend moving away, and the death of his father. He has stalker-ish moments when he tries to hit on a random woman who he had a cordial moment with at a pet store by ramming his car into hers to get her number. Wilson’s personality really is the make or break of this movie, either you enjoy and get a laugh out of his antics, or if you don’t then there isn’t much else here for you. In general, he doesn’t have much of a character arc, it’s just the situations of his life that change over the course of the movie. He goes from a lonely sad sack, to a slightly less lonely sad sack. Aside from his positive attitude, the film also brings out a fair amount of sympathy for the character as everything in his life goes wrong in the beginning of the third act. When the oddly reconnected family spend the weekend at Dern’s sister’s house, a fight causes Wilson to spend a couple years in jail for kidnapping his biological daughter. Not only that, but when he’s released, he discovers that Dern has moved on and is dating someone else, his dog died, and even his neighborhood changed significantly in just a few years.
What the film does best is revel in uncomfortableness. One of the best moments is when Harrelson, Dern, and their biological daughter are riding in the car together and having a shared moment about swearing and basically being themselves when Wilson decides to turn on the radio and Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe is playing on the radio. Everyone’s face immediately drops and the daughter mentions that it totally killed the moment before asking repeatedly to turn it off. It’s those kinds of moments that really help endear this movie to the audience. Wilson is uncomfortableness personified and the movie really helps sell that he’s never quite in the right place. Whether he’s talking baby-dog talk to someone in response to them talking that way to his dog, or when he’s attacking a teenage boy bullying the daughter he was stalking from a distance and had yet to actually meet. It’s all just comedic uncomfortableness. And for the actor’s parts, they all handle their roles well. Especially Harrelson and Dern who work well together, and Dern really feels like the type of character to need someone like Wilson at the moment, but easily grow out of him. Judy Greer plays a dog-sitter who frequently watches Wilson’s dog when he has to go out on his escapades, including his unexpected stint in jail. It was initially unexpected when she became the next romantic interest, but the film handles it well enough.
One of the hardest things to discuss about this film is that it doesn’t feel like there’s much overall depth to the piece. Wilson is an entertaining character in his own right, but at the end of the day he’s still the same character, just in a better situation through circumstances outside of his control. There’s nothing special about the look or the sound of the movie, it just is what it is, and if that’s enough for you then that’s great. And it did get enough big laughs out of me to enjoy it, but I don’t think it’s going to be the type of movie that sits with me for a long time after this. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.