Wrong. The titles serves as both mission statement and admonishment, as Quentin Dupieux‘s latest project exists in a world where the irrational and irregular reign, where clocks tick over from :59 to :60, where the concept of “appropriate” behavior doesn’t seem to exist to anyone, where palm trees turn into pine trees overnight, where typical horror film clangs and bangs ring out at the most odd of moments (giving everything a strange sense of danger). But the world of Wrong is a more focused one than fans of Dupieux might be used to, and the film has more of a standard plot than Dupieux’s previous film (2010’s new classic Rubber), though it’s still unreservedly absurd.
The film ostensibly follows Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick, ever-engaging and just plain game), a somewhat reserved young gentleman whose best friend is his dog, Paul. When Paul goes missing one morning, Dolph falls down the sort of cinematic K-hole that only Dupieux could create. Dolph’s already very strange world suddenly becomes populated with a lovestruck pizza girl (Alexis Dziena), an inept French-Mexican gardener (Eric Judor) who is incapable of explaining what happened to that wacky tree, and a private investigator (Steve Little) whose reasons for being terrible at his job might be less his fault than meet the eye.
But all of Wrong’s secondary characters are small potatoes compared to William Fichtner as the inscrutable Master Chang. As the mysterious dog-loving Chang, Fichtner finally admits what we all know is true – he’s nearly unstoppable in quirky, irreverent character roles. Paired with Plotnick, they’re a study in tongue-in-cheek, superbly dry absurdism and how to do it absolutely right. We may have no idea what the hell is going on, but Plotnick and Fichtner give Wrong a strong center.
Yet Wrong is best viewed and enjoyed by audiences willing to participate in a big game of pretend. Much like Rubber, it’s often hard to know what is real and what is pure imagination. The film’s final act in particular veers off course to dangerous, bloody territory that doesn’t sit well with the rest of the film’s generally light-hearted and enjoyable tone. Chalking it up to bizarre Dupeiux make-believe helps it go down much easier.
Wrong is a film not quite suited for a review, as so much of it hinges on audience reaction and involvement, and it all but begs for a very certain kind of viewer with a very certain kind of sense of humor and disposition to enjoy it. Many will surely deride the film, writing it off as nonsensical or lazy, but Dupeiux doesn’t do things on accident, and he seems quite assuredly in control throughout the entire film. Wrong will be a hysterical joy in the right hands.
The Upside: A more polished take on absurdism from Dupieux, Wrong will please fans of Rubber with its more coherent plot, winning lead, and zinging one-liners.
The Downside: The film’s final act falls short, too stuffed with weirdly fulfilled prophecies and an off-kilter (and, when it comes to a film like Wrong, saying something is “off-kilter” is really saying something) wrap-up to a side plot that just doesn’t jive with the rest of the film.
On the Side: Could we really not get a Rubber tire cameo?