You have to hand it to Quentin Dupieux, he really sticks to his guns. If you'd have told me that he could up the ante after Rubber and take his "no reason" cinematic philosophy to greater heights, I'd have scoffed then bet money you were joking. Yet here comes Wrong, a film which seems on the surface to be a more grounded tale than Rubber, but takes a left turn at Albequerque then drives a giant infinity loop with the tires squealing and no hands on the wheel. He doubles down the absurd here in a bid to keep your attention rapt. It works.
Whereas Rubber was the story of a sentient homicidal tire with psychokinetic powers (covered in last week's Shock-o-Rama), Wrong opts for a more relatable protagonist in Dolph (Jack Plotnick). He's a slightly askew fellow who can't come to grips with the realities of his boring life and seeks escape through the (overly obsessive) relationship with his dog, Paul. As the film opens with Dolph's clock ticking over to 7:60 a.m., Paul is already missing and a distraught Dolph sets about finding him. During his quest, Dolph's action drastically alter the lives of those around him but he seems completely immune to change. He repeats his daily routine with the same abject boredom which most nine-to-fivers do, with nearly no deviation to this slavish devotion despite the absurdity revolving around him.
This journey of anti self discovery takes an even more bizarre turn with the introduction of William Fichtner's character Master Chang, a man with supposed mystical powers who believes in the choice of the individual (and hocking his own absurdly titles books about human/pet relationships). His scarred visage and outrageous accent leave you feeling off kilter, which helps setup the psyche for some of the crazy to come (sort of how hypnotism leaves you more susceptible to suggestion). No matter what happens though, Dolph seems unwilling or unable to effect self change in even the slightest way. The massage that people work as hard as they can to resist change is hammered home through the run time. It's a bit heavy handed, but it has to be to be heard over the din of absurdness surrounds it.
Wrong will have you alternately engrossed and rolling your eyes. For a seemingly simplistic poem to no reason, there is a great depth of symbolism at work. It functions like a train wreck, compelling you to look away and yet defying you to try. I felt a little like Alex from A Clockwork Orange, unable to glance away from the madness unspooling before me; the apparatus banning me from blinking: my own fingers. Repeat viewing will undoubtably reward fans with a wealth of discoveries, which I'd recommend doing over reading about it on the Internet as the point of Wrong is discovery for one's self.
The cinematography is again top notch here, with Dupieux taking the reigns to bring his vision to reality. He has a natural eye for fascinating angles and brings a broad, bright Crayola box of colors to the screen. This again contributes to making you unable or unwilling to look away. Unfortunately, there is one sequence with Pet Detective Ronnie (Steve Little) which you'll likely wish had been left on the cutting room floor. It's attempting to poke fun at police procedurals and their absurd technological leaps to evidence but it comes off as disgusting poop humor, which doesn't at all fit into the tone of the movie.
Wrong won't appeal to everyone. Eschewing the literal for absurdism, Dupieux is like a young Tim Burton removed of the gothic trappings. Movie goers who demand absolutely realism (or think they do; it is the movies after all) will likely be unable to give this enough of a chance to find the fun. Those who are looking for something different or who are willing to give the director the reigns and be taken for a ride will love it. I don't think either group will be able to look away.
Wrong hit theaters as a limited release on March 29th courtesy of Drafthouse Films (the releasing arm of the Alamo Drafthouse) and has been available as a video on demand title since February.
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Saturday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famousColonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.