Review: Wrong

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Wrong

As a fan of Quentin Dupieux's delightfully Dadaistic 2010 feature Rubber, I had high hopes for his new film, Wrong. I envisioned a movie just as quirky as Rubber, but with a more mainstream plot about a man searching for his lost dog.

I was, well, wrong. (Sorry -- I couldn't resist.) Wrong certainly is quirky and absurd, but it lacks the endearingly odd humor, cool factor and narrative originality of Rubber. It's weird, but not engaging.

Wrong is the story of Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick), who awakens one morning to find that his dog, Paul, has gone missing. What happens next probably will make no more sense in written form than it does on screen, so I'll just say that while looking for his beloved pet, Dolph embarks on journeys both physical and mental.

Along the way, Dolph encounters a host of strange situations and oddball characters, among them a flaky pizza restaurant employee, Emma (Alexis Dziena); his Hispanic gardener with a French accent, Victor (Eric Judor); a hot-tempered pet detective, Ronnie (Steve Little); and the mysteriously metaphysical pet-care book author, Master Chang (William Fichtner). All of them interact with Dolph in off-kilter ways, some of which make more sense than others in the context of the story.

All of this could add up to a surreally entertaining tale of a man's love for his pet, but unfortunately Wrong doesn't add up to much; what worked so well in Rubber doesn't work at all in Wrong. The vibe is so bizarre that the film's emotional core -- the bond between humans and their pets -- is lost in the strangeness. We're so distracted by peculiar asides, curious conversations and far-out loose ends that we don't really care whether Dolph and Paul are reunited.

The tone of Wrong is curiously flat and lifeless, with no emotional spark. Rather than being gleefully unhinged, the film is mostly dull. The underdeveloped characters -- some interesting, but none really likeable -- never really engage each other. They speak as if they're reciting lines instead of conversing, and their banter is awkwardly paced rather than flowing naturally. The scenes play more like a collection of vignettes than a narrative arc; as Wrong meanders from one surreal situation to the next, the film never develops its story or reaches a climax. The ending is suitably obtuse for such a curious film, but no more intriguing.

I get the point of surrealism in many films -- I totally got it in Rubber -- but I didn't see it in Wrong. If Dupieux intended Wrong's endless absurdity to be a commentary on the absurdity of the human condition, I didn't make the connection. Some of the film's more bizarre moments are funny (for example, the sprinklers are always on in Dolph's office, but the drenched employees keep working anyway), but I didn't get their significance or relevance to the story. Maybe I missed something, but Wrong seems to be weird merely for the sake of being weird rather than assigning any deeper meaning to all the random craziness.  What is Wrong really about? Beats me. If it isn't meant to be about anything -- I considered this possibility -- it's not interesting enough to get away with being meaningless.

If there's anything to like about Wrong, it's the film's occasional humor and winkingly hammy performances. Fichtner clearly doesn't take the wisdom-spouting Master Chang seriously (neither should we, of course), and Dziena's goofy take on Emma enlivens some of her scenes. And despite my overall criticisms, some viewers might enjoy Wrong's complete departure from reality more than I did, and find a kernel or two of substance (or maybe a justification for the film's lack of substance) that escaped me.