Dog-lover and dog-gone loner Wilson goes on a rare date that leads to him tracking down his ex-wife, rumoured to be a recovering junkie and prostitute. She’s played by Laura Dern, who reveals she actually did have the child she was pregnant with when she left him, 17 years earlier.
Again undeterred, Wilson – sweetly buoyed by the news he’s a father – tracks this child down and the pair stalk the ungainly teenager for a while before revealing themselves to their shocked daughter, at a mall.
Together now for the first time since conception, the unlikely trio go on a “family” trip that turns predictably disastrous, particularly when the girl’s family call in the police.
It’s a real oddity this film, aimless in parts yet anchored by Harrelson’s essential honesty. Even when Wilson’s ruinously rude or reckless, you feel it’s genuine and justified. There’s a heartfelt authenticity to both the character (based on a Daniel Clowes graphic novel) and the way he’s played.
It was good to hear a Jon Brion score again – I hadn’t heard this composer for a while, when he was the hot choice for indie directors such as Paul Thomas Anderson and Charlie Kaufman, though a quick search reveals he also did Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck recently. Whatever, this marks a return to his more ethereal work, and it serves the tone of the material perfectly, pitching it back and forth between whimsy and full-on sociopathy.