First Hit: At times out-loud funny but I wouldn’t have called it a comedy.
This film was a study of a man who was socially inept, neurotic, and brazenly honest with his comments to and about people. We find Wilson (Woody Harrelson) living in a messy apartment filled with paperback books. He’s got a sweet dog with whom he talks to and allows to run and act freely around the apartment. When he walks the dog, and people want to speak to the dog in a doggie voice, he insults them by mimicking the doggie voice the people use.
He despises technology and continually interrupts people who are wearing headphones. His only friend is moving away and Wilson blames his buddy's wife. Wilson gets a call from the hospital telling him his father’s heart is failing and dying. He visits the hospital and we see that Wilson didn’t get much acknowledgment or love growing up and although his father, lying there, was unconscious, the audience gets that Wilson’s statement was probably true. Then his dad dies.
Cloaked in confusion because he has no family his best friend is gone, although his dog sitter Shelly (Judy Greer) likes him well enough, he seeks to find his ex-wife Pippi (Laura Dern). There are some very out-loud funny scenes as he makes his way to find Pippi, including speaking with her co-worker. After a drink together, Pippi and Wilson start talking and as they talk, it becomes obvious why they were a couple and why they split up. When he asks her about the reasons for aborting their child, she tells him that she had the child and gave it up for adoption.
With a new mission to spend his energy on, he searches for and finds his now 17 year old daughter, Claire (Isabella Amara). Convincing Pippi to join him, they follow her to a mall where they introduce themselves.
His continued, no filter, behavior eventually gets him in trouble with the law when he takes Claire to meet Pippi’s sister Polly (Cheryl Hines). In this interaction we see part of the reason why Pippi struggles with her family as their judgmental ways are tough to be around.
Harrelson was good but I didn’t like the character much. I liked some of Wilson’s ideas and his directness, but cringed at the level by which his unfiltered communication with complete strangers (the bathroom urinal scene). Greer was wonderful and represented a calm place and person in Wilson's life. Dern was great. She embodied the frustration of not having the kind of life she wanted while acknowledging her own failures. Amara was wonderful as the confused daughter. Hines did a good job of being the perfect, antagonistic sister. Daniel Clowes wrote this screenplay from his own graphic novel and there is some speculation that Wilson’s behavior occasionally mirror’s his own. Craig Johnson’s direction was clear but the issue was it was neither funny enough to be a comedy nor was it dramatic enough to be just a drama.
Overall: This film is entertaining enough, but it is mostly a study on how a maladjusted man finds he way through life.