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WRONG – World Premiere @ Sundance Film Festival Movie Review
From the writer and director of Rubber, absurdity meets levity meets love in Quentin Dupieux’s WRONG. An office with a rain problem, socially uncomfortable speaking distances, a suspiciously Caucasian-looking “Master Chang,” a neighbor in denial, and most importantly, a man’s dog whose gone missing, WRONG comprises a wide array of strange characters, plot lines, and interpretations of reality that manage to simultaneously confuse and amuse. But the confusion, as Dupieux intended, is a vital contributor to some of the film’s deadpan humor.
To be certain, WRONG is not for everybody. In fact, it would be wrong if WRONG conformed to the tastes of the movie-going majority. Dupieux says his purpose for making films is not financial support, but rather to provide an outlet to express his creative side – a very eccentric one I might add.
The film begins as Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick) awakes in his suburban home, unable to find his dog, Paul. It’s this void that sets the story in motion, as Dolph struggles to maintain his sanity through a plethora of illogical and inconceivable events, all the while remembering that Paul is missing and he needs locate him. Before he knows it, a detective is involved (asking questions such as, “How does Paul feel about this chew toy?”) and Dolph finds himself practicing a form of dog telepathy (think: illustrations of dog with “third eye” in front of telescoping concentric circles that alternate between black and white) as instructed by a new piece of literature.
Social norms are not a particular strong suit of the film’s characters. Dolph has a problem of literally distancing himself from others while in conversation. Yet, his neighbor – the first to encounter and point-out Dolph’s odd proclivity for speaking from afar – is dealing with a much more ‘serious’ (and arguably funnier) issue than Dolph; he is in absolute denial of the fact that he is a…jogger. And his vehement refusal to acknowledge this plain statement of fact – like the fervor of a highly polarized pro-life/choice champion – makes the situation even more hilarious. By happenstance, I was sitting several seats from Quentin during the premiere and distinctly recall him in near-constant laughter (like much of the audience) as he enjoyed the scene.
Next came Victor (Eric Judor) and Emma (Alexis Dziena), Dolph’s gardener and love “interest”, respectively. A mistaken pizza delivery puts the three characters in a bizarre love triangle that neither man wants to call his own – nor do they entirely understand Emma’s attachment to them. Yet her inability to differentiate between Victor and Dolph (despite highly contrasted skin tones, for one) makes it more of a love “V”, with Emma at the bottom point and the two men at the top. Dolph and Victor’s paths are thus moving infinitely away from one another, never intersecting – much like their dual relationships with Emma.
But my favorite character from WRONG is that of Mr. Chang, a dog guru of sorts played by William Fichtner. Give credit to Fichtner for devising his character with, among other traits, a ponytail and accent, nuances Dupieux readily embraced and which strongly contribute to WRONG’s comedic tone. Fichtner steals most every scene he’s in, evidence of his comedic timing and Dupieux’s disposition towards collaboration and acting on intuition.
Yet, for all the absurdity that reveals itself as comedy, WRONG can be too much at times. Having necessarily suspended disbelief, I often found myself looking for more semblance of a story or cohesive set of events. And while the director intentionally assemblies this ‘confusion,’ Dupieux would be better off selectively dispensing of some of the ludicrously edited sequences and beyond-any-belief mini storylines.
However, if the audience is disoriented by the story, they are living vicariously through Dolph, whose hardships and day-to-day woes put him in a more fragile and malleable state of mind. Dupieux thus manifests Dolph’s psyche into the story, cinematography, and editing. WRONG’s aforementioned oddities serve this purpose and, one could counter, make the film, not partially break it. I’ll let you decide.