Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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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


Cast Away (2000)

I wonder what I would do if I was on an island for a whole year.

After FedEx systems engineer Chuck Noland’s (Tom Hanks) plane crashes in the Pacific Ocean, he finds himself fighting to survive on a deserted island with nothing but a painted volleyball — a silent partner he names Wilson — for company.

Director Robert Zemeckis is known in today’s world as the guy who can’t get enough of that weird-ass CGI with such movies as Beowulf, A Christmas Carol, and most recently Mars Needs Moms. But it’s always great to see what this guy can do when he’s given real-life people, or for this matter, one real-life person.

Zemeckis does a great job with the overall feel and tone of this story. He uses no music whatsoever and uses the sounds of the ocean breeze, to give us this huge sense of alienation that Chuck is going through as well. There are also longs periods of time where there is barely any language spoken at all, and it really does work because you feel like you are right there with him, stranded on this unknown island. The cinematography is also so beautiful to look at, as there are moments where I could not take my eyes off the screen because I was so amazed of what I saw.

However, I think the main problem with this film is that it’s pace will have some viewers checking out their watches many times throughout. There are long strains of time where there is no dialogue, and sometimes people will find themselves a little bored with everything that’s going on. I know moments in this film had me more fascinated than others, but I know this film will have many viewers most likely snoozing.

I liked the fact that the minimalist screenplay does a good job of portraying the human will to survive and how its tone is actually very unique, but my main problem with this script is how it’s resolved. I don’t want to give away too much but there’s a certain element to this story that opens and closes the film which actually is pretty weak compared to what they could have done with the story. Again, I can’t give too much away but when the film is over, I think you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The real show to watch here is the always amazing, Tom Hanks. A lot of the film is spent just watching him go about his days on the island, and all of it is so great because Hanks just is a presence that cannot be taken away no matter who else is around him. Hanks is so familiar to everybody, yet he loses himself in this character and we really do sympathize with him through this long adventure on the island all alone. But let us all not forget everybody’s favorite volleyball, Wilson. I must say watching Hanks having a conversation with this volleyball made me laugh, and at parts had me actually believe that he could actually be having a conversation with this thing. Helen Hunt also shows up and is just OK, but that’s how she usually is in most films.

Consensus: Many moments will put viewers to sleep with it’s slow pace, and bother others with it’s crappy ending, but Cast Away showcases Tom Hank’s amazing skills as an actor, and provides a smart directing job from Zemeckis.