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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Daniel Clowes

Wilson (2017)

Life’s crap. So talk it out.

Wilson (Woody Harrelson) is a guy who, well, likes to talk. To anyone. About anything. Most of the time, though, he just annoys people by being outspoken, always having something on his mind, and normally, being smart and well-equipped for any conversation. It makes him a nice guy, but also someone who doesn’t quite like the world, making him feel more lonely and isolated. That’s why he decides to track down Pippa (Laura Dern), the ex-wife who left him 17 years earlier. And while they reconnect and everything seems to be great and wonderful, wouldn’t you know it, that the two actually have a kid together, in the form of Claire (Isabella Amara). And while she gave her up for adoption, Wilson decides to bring Pippa along for the ride of finding Claire, getting to know her, and striking up something of a relationship that was clearly missed out on before. It’s something that Wilson wants and, at this point in his life, needs. But it’s also something that may prove to be his ultimate undoing and a true sign that he needs to get with the times and grow up a bit.

I don’t know if she’s shocked that he found their kid, or that they had sex together to begin with?

Wilson is from the masterful brain and mind of Daniel Clowes, who knows a thing or two about making fun of the social norm and everyday life that is regular society. And in this movie, we do get a bunch of that; constant conversations about technology, life, love, friendships, work, and so on and so forth, casually gets discussed and honestly, they verge on being brilliant. Clowes is a smart writer who actually has an ear for dialogue, even if the dialogue does lead to characters just going on and on about silly stuff.

In a way, he’s a pessimistic Kevin Smith, for better and for worse.

But what’s odd about Wilson is that it feels like a lot of that brilliance gets lost in the shuffle of a story that doesn’t quite make sense, nor ever really come together. It’s as if director Craig Johnson knew that Clowes’ material was great and hilarious, but also realized that in order to make this all work in one, cohesive picture, he needed to create a story, with plot-archs, character-development, and well, feelings. He gets some of that right, but really, it feels like he’s straining a bit; it’s almost as if he just wants to keep on sitting by and listening to these conversations and not really get brought down by something as lame and conventional as plot.

Life is grand. So stop talking about it, bro!

And who could blame him? As Wilson, Woody Harrelson is pretty great, showing a funny, nice, and rather sweet guy, who often times gets brought down by his own anger and frustration with the world around him. It’s a role that could have been very one-note and, well, boring, but Harrelson handles this kind of thing with absolute charm, allowing for the material to click when it should. And the rest of the ensemble, with Isabella Amara, Judy Greer and Laura Dern, among others, are all pretty good, too, showing off a great deal of lightness and fun, even when the material gets sort of stuck.

And it’s why Wilson can often times be a disappointment. Johnson’s past two movies (True Adolescents, The Skeleton Twins) have both been thoughtful, smart, and heartfelt looks inside the lives of people we only see in indie-movies. While that can sometimes give off a negative breath of air, in ways, it works for him. He tries to do the same thing with Wilson, but mostly, he gets lost in a plot that doesn’t know what it wants to be about. Does it want for Wilson to grow up and accept his responsibilities? Does it want him to leave his only child alone? Does it want him to be sad? More depressed? Fed-up with the world around him?

Honestly, I’m not sure. And nor do I think Wilson himself is, hence why this is a bit of a disappointment. So much more could have been done, had there been more attention paid to the things that truly, honestly matter.

Consensus: Wilson has some streaks of absolute hilarity, but mostly, feels like a sad attempt on trying to string together a bunch of character-beats and ideas, alongside a plot that doesn’t gel.

6 / 10

They’re a happy family. They’re a happy family.

Photos Courtesy of: Roger EbertThe PlaylistFilm Blerg

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Ghost World (2001)

High school may have blown, but post-high school, sucks even worse.

Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) are a pair of outsiders who have just graduated from high school and are trying to figure-out to do with their lives. There’s the possibility of college, getting an apartment together, making money, having boyfriends, spending time together, getting jobs, and all of that other, annoying crap that you have to deal with after the days of high school. However, Enid is more concerned with her friendship with a strange man she met through an ad in the classifieds, a nerd named Seymour (Steve Buscemi).

People may make fun of it a lot and write it off as it’s some sort of plea for help or pity, but seriously: it’s hard being a teenager, let alone, a young adult. It really is, especially after you hit that ripe-part in your life where not only are you out of high school and have the rest of your life to think about, but also realize that for the past 4 years of your life, you’ve been sleep-walking in a state of normality, without any ideas or consequences of what you want to do next with your life. I know this all comes off as very angsty and straining, especially when you know that this is coming from a 19-year-old male, who lives with his parents, goes to a city college, and makes a living off of Craigslist, but it’s the truth and that’s what resonated with me so much throughout this whole flick: it’s just like me, in one way or another.

I’ve never read or even given a look at the original graphic novel that this flick is based-off of but from what it seems like, the author, Daniel Clowes, definitely knows a thing or two about being stuck in the middle of your life and having no idea how the hell to get out of it. I was never an outsider throughout school, hell, not even life, but I really connected with these two gals in the ways that they weren’t able to connect with the rest of the world around them. They sulk around their days as they go-by, make fun of every person they see, and never seem to be happy with anything that comes their way. They are just the typical, normal, neo-cool teenagers that are way too hot for their britches and act like everybody else around them are a bunch of idiots and as annoying as that may sound to watch a whole, hour-and-50-minute long movie about, trust me, it’s a lot darker and dramatic than it may have you think.

Nothing spells-out, "Confused and Lonely", quite like two people laying on one another.

Nothing spells-out, “Confused and Lonely”, quite like two people laying on one another.

The flick never really gets down on these girls for being such a bunch of bummers, it actually, more or less, shows them-off as being true, near, and dear human-beings that just go about their lives in different directions than say, you or I. Watching them interact with one another was great because I felt like they were two friends that knew everything about one another, and loved each other for all of it, but yet, it was also sad to see at how rapidly they were changing and how things between the two become a bit hostile, once one person’s laziness gets in the way of the other person’s happiness. It shows that these two are friends that love each other for all that that are, but maybe not for all that they are going to be, considering that their lives may soon be changing, as well as their personalities and whatnot.

That “friendship” aspect is what really touched me in a way, but the whole idea of not knowing where to go when your life of high school is all said and done with, well that, really got to me. Not only is it done in such a way that’s pitch-black humorous with all of it’s insights on how stupid and annoying people who give into conformity can be, but it also done in a way where life doesn’t always hand you out questions, as if they were lemons. It’s sort of like that old saying, “You get more out of life, by what you put into it”, and in a way, that’s sort of truthful. You can sit around all day, watch movies, critique them, talk shit on other people because they aren’t like you in every, which-way, and at the end of it all, just go back to your bed and be peaceful with your own anger and self-misery. In a way, that’s sort of my life story, but yet, it isn’t because I actually do a lot more than just all of that boring, dull shite that I just mentioned. I like to be happy with friends, hang-out, go to parties, listen to some neat-o music, and just do all of the typical things that make a person happy, no matter how old or young they may just be.

That’s why the old saying that I just mentioned up there, is, relatively true to the point of where you understand where you’ll life will go if you don’t do anything with it, and yet, still expect it to give you the happiness and pleasure that you so rightfully desire. If life can’t do it for you, then you just have to do it for yourself and it’s a lot easier said, then actually done, but it can, and it will be done if you give yourself the time and pace. This main theme resonated with me very well and I love how everything played-out here in a very brutal, honest way that made me laugh, made me a bit emotional, and also, made me realize that there is more I can do with my life than just sitting around and talking shite on people. I don’t want to say this movie is a “life changer” by any stretch of the imagination, but it is one that will definitely connect with you, if you have ever felt out-of-place in the world, or just don’t have any sense of general direction of where you want it to go.

However, I felt like that main theme was sort of ruined by the ending that plays it almost a little too safe. Without giving too much away, there is this red herring that continues to pop-up throughout the whole story and at first, it seems like a sweet, little quirky touch from the writers and director, but after awhile, it becomes so insistingly obvious, that you sort of just want them to get it over and done with. It got so annoying that by the time the actual ending came about (which there seem to be 2 of, mind you), I was left a bit more dry than I originally expected. Yes, the thoughts, ideas, and messages that this movie made me think about were still left in my head, but did not impact me as much as if the film just knew the right time and place to end, exactly when I thought it should have. Oh well, not everything can be perfect I guess.

Going back to my point about the friendship between these two gals, the main reason why it works so well is because Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson are so good in the roles, whether they are together, or not. Johansson is the type of actress that doesn’t seem to get cut-enough slack, but as of late, she’s been proving that, time and time again, she can knock it out of the park and shut all those naysayers up, but here, in one of her earlier roles, she’s great. She’s young, brass, full of attitude, but also a bit different from Enid because she has more of an inspiration for what she wants to do with her live and understands the concept of, “Having money, allows you to buy the things you want, and therefore, you are happy”.

Even though she was about 17 in this, she was still foxy, don't even lie you pervs.

Even though she was about 17 in this, she was still foxy. Don’t even lie you pervs.

Enid, on the other-hand, does not roll that way and god bless her for that. After American Beauty boosted her to stardom, Thora Birch seemed to go straight for the same, exact role she played as the misunderstood outsider, but this time, with more of a comic-edge to her here, than that role. Birch’s comedic-timing is just perfect with her deeply deadpan, sardonic delivery that makes you feel like this girl is way too smart to hold a conversation with, or let alone, even be around in the same area with. That doesn’t make her the loveliest of lovely characters to watch grace the screen, but it still makes her a very honest character, albeit, a female teenager in a teen-dramedy. She’s full of angst, but not in the way you’d expect, she’s pissed at the world, angry at how it doesn’t accept it, and and mad at how it’s not making her happy. It’s a very honest-portrayal of a girl that has no sense of direction and doesn’t really care to have one, and it really makes you wonder just why the hell Birch left the spotlight after this and hasn’t really done a movie, as big as this? Seriously, Thora! Come back to us and show these whiny, little teenaged, Twilight-girls what going through angst is all about!

The highlight of this whole cast, mostly has to be Steve Buscemi who plays the endearing nerd, Seymour. When we first see Seymour, we see him as this type of loser, that doesn’t really talk to many people, have great-enough social-skills to be bothered with the rest of the world, and even better, doesn’t give a shit about anything, really. It’s sort of sad, but Buscemi plays it up so perfectly to where you really feel for the dude, especially when things start to really come-out of his soul and character that at first, may seem a bit strange, but once you get to thinking about it, realize, that maybe, just maybe, it’s what was going to happen to this guy all-along. Buscemi has such a great look and feel to him that doesn’t make you cringe at how awkward or weird he can be sometimes, but more or less, at how he’s just sad dude, who’s nice, but still very sad that the rest of the world hasn’t fully been able to make sense of him, either. It’s a wonderful performance from Buscemi that basically shows the guy can do anything, especially a comedy where he’s all about being subtle, and way, way too serious. But hey, that’s the Buscemi charm!

Consensus: Ghost World may end on a bit of a dinker, but it’s themes and central-message hit harder than any, other teenage-dramedy of the past decade or so, and the performances from everybody feel fully-realized, and never used as caricatures even though that’s definitely the type of direction this film could have gone in.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

RED HERRING ALERT!!!!!!

RED HERRING ALERT!!!!!!