Wilson (Woody Harrelson) is a grumpy middle-aged guy stuck in a decades-old rut. He lives alone in a messy apartment, and bemoans the failing state of civilization. He is annoyed that people aren’t as social as they should be, but he’s about the most alienating conversationalist on the block; he has no filter and his honest appraisals are socially horrifying. Then he discovers that his ex-wife, Pippi (Laura Dern), has moved back to town, and even more remarkably, the pair learn of their baby, given up for adoption years ago, who is now a local teenager. It all has the effect of re-invigorating Wilson, and perhaps finally propelling him to pull his head out of his own ass and behave better toward those around him. OK, maybe, but not before he takes some ill-advised paths to self-discovery.
Craig Johnson’s dark comedy is adapted from Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel, and it keeps some of the author’s deadpan tone. (Johnson helmed 2014’s The Skeleton Twins, and Wilson has a similar vibe.) But Harrelson and Dern, even when portraying total screw-ups, are such winning actors they bring a fair amount of effervescence to the work. As do a number of other notable actors, such as Margo Martindale and Cheryl Hines, who turn up in small roles and cameos.