Over the course of the last decade, Quentin Dupieux has cultivated a signature schtick in canning conventions and reveling in the absurd. His 2010 film, Rubber, which features Robert the animate tire with telepathic powers, made significant waves and this time around, the French filmmaker sticks mostly to human characters, but they are by no means less bizarre. Centering on a man who’s dog has gone missing, Wrong was one of the most (strangely) hilarious films to hit the festival circuit this year, and one of the few that demanded attention for its genuine oddity.
Standing by his ideology from Rubber, almost everything here appears to happen for no reason whatsoever, but not everything is as it seems. Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick) wakes to find that his dog, Paul, has vanished. The neighbor hasn’t seen anything, and mid-conversation decides to hop in his car with his sights set on the desert. After a lengthy call with the new pizzeria about their logo that features a rabbit on a motorcycle, Dolph heads to work. Despite being fired months ago, he shows up to the office (in which it constantly rains) to act like he’s working for a few hours a day. Upon returning home, his gardener reports that the palm tree in his backyard has turned into a pine tree over night. After this series of flat out ridiculous situations (and more), the plot finally arrives â€“ Dolph is given a series of messages that tell him to contact Master Chang (played by a perfectly farcical William Fichtner) regarding Paul. Master Chang’s company apparently kidnaps pets, later returning them to imbue a new sense of appreciation in their owners, but this time, something went awry, and Paul has gone MIA.
Obviously, there is plenty of absurdest type humor sprinkled throughout every scene, but it’s not the kind of comedy that garners wide spread laughter throughout a crowd. Some viewers will no doubt be rolling in the aisles while others nervously glance around with raised eyebrows, occasionally jutting their shoulders with nervous yucks. Whether or not you’ll find enjoyment in this really depends on your sense of humor. Does the idea of a pet detective who connects dog excrement to a machine that displays its memory on a TV screen in hopes of finding a clue as to where Paul is make you smile or cringe at the distastefulness of the entire situation? If you discovered someone randomly painting your neighbor’s car a different color, would you secretly find it funny? If the answer is no to either of these, then this may not be the film for you.
Encoded in the outlandish humor that pervades the film are bits of commentary on everyday life. The most overt is Dupieux’s urging to appreciate the relationships around you, which is manifested in the dog kidnapping, but also in a subplot in which a woman from the pizzeria moves between men without even realizing they have changed. Another cultural critique is found in the rainy office, an instantly recognizable visual metaphor for how dreary a 9 to 5 job can be. There are plenty of these tidbits found throughout Wrong that give the film multiple layers of preposterous decadence. Though not as visually striking as Rubber, Dupieux’s newest outshines its predecessor with a sturdier story arch, more amble characters, and a constant stream of absurdities that raises the comedic bar ever so slightly. Why just slightly? No reason.
Reviewed on January 29th at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival â€“ WORLD DRAMATIC COMPETITION Programme.