Summer Review: Wilson

With the summer SF blockbuster season coming to an end, we’re going to deliver some of our Summer Weekend Reviews of older flicks during the final weeks of beaches, sunglasses, and solar eclipse.1. This one isn’t even that old; it hit theaters– fleetingly– in March.

Wilson, based on the Daniel Clowes graphic novel (reviewed here), received a mediocre response from critics and did not find a large audience. It’s not the film of the year, but it’s far better than the popular response suggests.

Title: Wilson

Director: Craig Johnson
Writers: Daniel Clowes and Craig Johnson

Woody Harrelson as Wilson
Laura Dern as Pippi
Isabella Amara as Claire
Judy Greer as Shelly
Cheryl Hines as Polly
Margo Martindale as Alta
David Warshofsky as Orson
Brett Gelman as Robert
Mary Lynn Rajskub as Jodie
Lauren Weedman as Cat Lady
Greta Oglesby as Belinda
Bruce Bohne as Karl
Shaun Brown as Laptop Man
Brett Gelman as Robert
Toussaint Morrison as Diego
Richard Ooms as Edwin
James Saito as Warren Kudo
Miles Strommen as Aidan
Jackson Bond as Rocky
Bill McCallum as Will
Alec George as Cooper
Peter Moore as Cassiday


A lonely, socially maladjusted, misanthropic man’s attempt to reconnect with his ex-wife goes awry, with darkly comic results.

High Points:

Some of Wilson’s most socially inappropriate moments work brilliantly onscreen, and Harrelson makes him a more likeable character than his paper counterpart. I could feel for the graphic novel’s version of Wilson, but I couldn’t really like him. The movie version is someone I can (with some reluctance) support.

Low Point:

The source material plays like a daily strip, with a punchline in each episode by an overall story to tell. Gaps between sections are a part of the source material—almost as if, as Clowes has explained, it really had been a daily strip and some installments went missing. The gaps work less effectively onscreen; I would have liked a better sense of Wilson’s critical transformation in the prison section of the film.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 Like Clowes’s most famous work, Ghost World, Wilson is episodic, though it has a more clearly-defined story arc. It required fewer adjustments to be made for screen. Nevertheless, many have been made, resulting in a slightly less offensive protagonist with a more hopeful journey, though one touched by darkness and cynicism.

Effects: 2+1/6 I’ll give two for a certain optically creative scene. Some films don’t include effects.

Acting: 5/6 The principals give great performances; Harrelson is disturbingly believable as Wilson. Laura Dern creates a sense of someone who has led a difficult life, but, even made up to the role, she fails to be unattractive.

Production: 5/6

Story: 4/6

Emotional Response: 5/6

Overall: 5/6

In total, Wilson receives 30/42 (Bonus added to adjust for effects)


1. In all fairness, our blatant Northern Hemisphere bias seems borne out by those posting at the site.