MSN Movies Blog

Fantastic Fest Review: 'Wrong'

The director of 'Rubber' lets the dogs out, and much absurdity follows

By William Goss Oct 25, 2012 3:55PM
Grade: 4/5

Quentin Dupieux opened last year’s killer tire comedy, “Rubber,” with a sheriff briefing his audience -- and, by extension, us viewers -- on the merits of utter randomness with a glorious “no reason” speech. Dupieux’s follow-up, “Wrong,” is essentially that speech writ large, starting off in a world not quite like our own before then upsetting that new status quo with no shortage of oddball developments. Like “Rubber,” the end result won’t be for everyone, but those on its perpetually absurd wavelength should soon find themselves left in fits of giggles.

Dolph’s dog, Paul, has gone missing, and Dolph (Jack Plotnick) is worried. Then again, he has a lot to be worried about - clocks turn 7:60 instead of 8:00 here. The fire sprinklers are constantly on at work, a fact that his co-workers don’t mind as much as the fact that Dolph keeps returning to a job he was fired from three months before. His palm tree in the backyard has become a pine tree overnight, much to the puzzlement of his French gardener (Eric Judor). A stranger paints people’s cars however he sees fit. The clingy girl from the new pizza place (Alexis Dziena) moves in without an invitation and mistakes Dolph and his gardener for one another on a daily basis.

Then, about a half-hour in, just when one worries that Dupieux has abandoned any conventional sense of plot, Master Chang (William Fichtner) makes himself known to Dolph. The author of texts like “My Life, My Dog, My Strength,” Chang works for a shadowy group that kidnaps pets for a few days before returning them, all in the interest of renewing their owners’ appreciation as an effort to prevent eventual, inevitable neglect. Paul represents their first oversight, and he assures Dolph that they have a top detective (Steve Little) on his trail.

A literal shaggy dog story (and perhaps an inadvertent antidote to this year’s schmaltzy “Darling Companion”), “Wrong” lacks the relatively comfortable meta-narrative of “Rubber” and that film’s droll play on horror movie conventions. Not all of it works - there’s a bizarre backwards beach sequence capped with a perplexing resurrection of sorts, and a subplot involving Dolph’s neighbor driving off into the desert is pretty much a non-starter. But Dupieux builds his world well, lending a strange credibility to the line between what the audience finds odd and what’s actually strange to these characters. When we enter the office belonging to Dolph’s boss, an upside-down globe placed in the corner seems to say it all about how casually inverted this entire place is.

Thankfully, Plotnick’s worrywart eyebrows do most of the work when it comes to having a proper rooting interest amid all this silliness, and while Judor, Dziena and Little are all good sports, none of them can rival the acid-scarred, telepathic presence of Fichtner as the sage, strange Master Chang. Speaking with a possibly Swiss accent and an assured cadence, his deadpan performance stands alone as an ideal emblem of Dupieux’s reason-less motives and is reason enough to hope that his films will only continue to reflect such an unfailingly peculiar point of view.

Drafthouse Films plans to release “Wrong” in 2013.
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