The best thing about this comedy drama is the performance by Woody Harrelson as Wilson. He is very much an oddball character in an oddball comedy. In some ways, with all his flaws and foibles, He is something of the 20th century-21st-century Everyman.
As might be expected, we first see him waking up, living alone except for his pet dog, middle-aged, the touch of the scruffy, with no explanation of whether he works or not, or what is his source of income. He doesn’t seem to worry about this at all. Perhaps, neither should we.
While Wilson has something of a good heart, he is also very direct in the way that he thinks, feels and, definitely, expresses himself to others. No filters! He has no friends to speak of, pleads with one not to move to St Louis from Minnesota, visits another to rekindle friendship only to find that this man is the embodiment of negativity and bitterness. Wilson will chat to people – as we see him imposing on an IT businessman, trying to sleep or to listen to his Walkman, in a train. And chatting with an IT-addicted woman would like to go on a date, in the diner.
Then we learn more about Wilson, his memories of his mother, his going to see his dying father who passes away without saying a word, something Wilson needs. Then we learn that his wife, Pippi, left him 17 years earlier, problems with drugs, pregnant and saying she would have an abortion.
Which means then that Wilson has been living like this for 17 years. A lonely and isolated life, despite himself.
But the IT lady googles his wife and finds links to her sister with Wilson then tracking her down as a waitress in a restaurant, trying to get her life back in order, something of a waif -like middle-aged woman (Laura Dern) who reveals that she did not have an abortion, had sent him the documents, had received no reply and had the girl adopted.
Having found Pippi, Wilson and is determined to find his daughter, Claire, readily getting information, tracking her down with Pippi, coming to her aid when she is bullied at school, not holding back in revealing who he is and who Pippi is, sharing some happy events with Claire, even taking her to see Pippi’s sister – and ill-fated venture which ends with Pippi and Holly fighting each other and charges of abduction for Wilson.
Wilson even glides through his prison sentence, despite some bashings, gradually ingratiating himself with everyone so that when he emerges from prison, and goes to see his neighbour Shelley (Judy Greer) who has minded his dog, there is some hope – though some disappointments in Pippi and some surprises with Claire…
Perhaps it does one some good sharing the life, hopes and disappointments of somebody so different in an oddball way.
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Review by the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting