Sunday, July 30, 2017

Woody Harrelson is brilliant in the under-rated/under-seen character comedy, WILSON

Having now seen two Oscar-caliber performances from male actors in the space of two days -- yesterday's post on Wakefield via Bryan Cranston and today's on WILSON, featuring a simply wonderful turn by Woody Harrelson -- I must say that I am now looking forward to seeing just who the Academy might deign to nominate for 2017's Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. Mr Harrelson is always good and sometimes infinitely better than that (have you seen his performance in Rampart?), and here he is given the chance to play one of the more unusual characters in his already bursting-at-the-seams repertoire of versatility. The actor comes through with one of his best-ever performances.

What makes Wilson -- the character and to a large extent the movie itself -- so memorable is that what this character says is often dead-on in terms of being truthful. And yet the guy is so weak in the social graces department that what he says ends up not mattering so very much. As directed by Craig Johnson (shown at right, of True Adolescents and The Skeleton Twins) and written by Daniel Clowes (of Ghost World and Art School Confidential) from his own graphic novel, the movie hits us full-out with this truly bizarre fellow and doesn't let us escape from him for more than a minute of its just-over-an-hour-and-a-half running time. And yet so thoroughly real, if strange, is Wilson, and so funny/sad/embarrassing/kind/angry and above all compelling is Harrelson's ability to bring him to grand and oddball life, that by the end of the movie we're rooting for the guy like you wouldn't have believed possible going in.

Wilson is full of other smart, deft performances, too -- particularly from Laura Dern (above, with Harrelson), who plays our hero's ex; Judy Greer (below) as his dog-sitting friend; and especially Isabella Amara, as the young woman who comes into his life as quite a surprise.

Ms Amara (shown at center, below) captures incredibly well that teenage surfeit of worry masked by a don't-give-a-shit attitude, from which little moments of genuineness now-and-then emerge. She's quite a find. The movie also manages to balance its view of modern technology as something tiresome and problematic with one that admits its usefulness and sharing abilities. Mr. Clowes also brings us a full-bodied, wart-and-all hero who must navigate his way around things that many of us simply take for granted.

As director Mr. Johnson wisely steps out of the way of his talented cast, allowing them to pull out the stops whenever needed.  He also keeps his tone light and jocular enough to carry us over the movie's several surprising turns. Prison, it seems, can sometimes even build character.

By the end of Wilson, most of its characters have managed to stay true to themselves, even as they make the concessions and compromises that go into somehow living in our very problemed world, while our hero has managed to finally, quite believably grow up.

From Fox Searchlight and running 94 minutes, after a disappointingly meager theatrical run, the movie may finally find an audience and success via home video (it's out now on DVD and Blu-ray), on VOD and via streaming facilities.

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