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‘Wilson’ (review)

Produced by Jim Burke, Josh Donen,
Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Screenplay by Daniel Clowes
Based on Wilson by Daniel Clowes
Directed by Craig Johnson
Starring Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern,
Isabella Amara, Judy Greer, Cheryl Hines


You can count on one thing from Daniel Clowes when it comes to storytelling. He will make you feel every emotion, frustration and triumph that his characters experience. This rings truer than true for the film adaption of his graphic novel Wilson.

Clowes has adapted his comic book to a screenplay that is directed by Craig Johnson. Woody Harrelson stars as the middle-aged, tragically honest and too smart for his own good, namesake of the title, Wilson as we join him, whether we want to or not, though a slice of his life that finds him not understanding the world around him.

Along the way, he loses his estranged father, gets back with his ex-wife (Laura Dern) and meets his daughter for the first time, brilliantly portrayed by relative newcomer, Isabella Amara. A series of well placed notions but very poorly executed places Wilson in a world he never expected and on the other side of this journey, he may find the balance he needs to cope with the changing world around him.

Director, Johnson perfectly realizes the “not quiet right” world of Wilson, from the quirky background characters to the main supporting cast featuring Judy Greer as the dog sitter, Shelly to David Warshofsky as Wilson’s acerbic, assholish childhood friend. Johnson has taken the finely tuned screenplay by Clowes and makes you feel as if you have stepped right into the pages of the book of this dysfunctional and sometimes upsetting life Wilson has chosen to lead.

As a fan of Daniel Clowes’ myriad of graphic novels and the two previous adaptions to film of his work, I realize that Wilson will not be for many people. It was almost not for me. Like Ghost World and Art School Confidential, Clowes has a knack for creating beautiful patchwork quilts out of the lives of human’s who just don’t quite fit into the world they occupy. Clowes loves these misfits and handles them with care and love. He loves sending them though an odyssey of growth and heartache that we are allowed to experience as well. In the end things may or may not be a little brighter but they are usually uncomfortable and they are definitely never dull.

If you are a fan of Ghost World, American Splendor, Crumb, and/or Art School Confidential then I highly recommend this film as an apropos addition to your collection. If you aren’t a fan, then I would say skip this one as it will leave you feeling uneasy and the small bright spot at the end may not make up for the painful journey you had to traverse for the meek reward.


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