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Wrong (2013)
Movie Reviews

Wrong (2013)

Since one cannot complain about how absurd the film is, it comes down to a personal preference; either you like this kind of storytelling, or you don’t.

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Wrong opens with a firefighter stepping into the middle of a road, dropping down his pants, squatting, opening a newspaper, and doing his business in full view of his crew, who seem to take no notice of him. Indeed, they don’t seem to take notice of anything, considering that they stand by idly as a van burns on the side of the road. I distinctly remember one firefighter sending a text on his smartphone. Now, what are we to make of this scene? Because the writer and director is Quentin Dupieux, the French electronic musician known for absurdist films, we can interpret it in one of two ways; either the scene has no meaning whatsoever, which would be correctly absurd, or it’s symbolic of Dupieux’s apparent disregard of what audiences and/or critics might think of his style. Having endured his previous film, the pretentious Rubber, I tend towards the latter interpretation.

Wrong is everything the title says it is, but seeing as that’s what Dupieux was aiming for, that really isn’t much of a criticism. In fact, although I have a long list of complaints about this film, they will lend absolutely no weight, simply because they relate to narrative strategies and techniques that were intentional. With no other avenues left for me, I must concede that it boils down to a fundamental concept, namely personal preference; either you like this kind of storytelling, or you don’t. I happen to fall into the latter category. If the former applies to you, feel free to stop reading this. In my personal opinion, absurdity can be fun, but it can also be self-indulgent, sometimes to the point that it alienates more audiences than it draws in. If that’s the goal, then why even bother being a filmmaker?

The main character is Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick), who wakes up one morning and discovers to his horror that his beloved dog, Paul, has gone missing. After getting into a discussion with his neighbor, who’s moving out of his house with only two suitcases, Dolph looks at a flyer for a pizzeria, calls the number, and gets into a lengthy discussion with the young woman at the other end of the line regarding the pizzeria’s logo – a rabbit riding a motorcycle. They both agree that the rabbit symbolizes the speediness of the pizza delivery, but if that’s the case, then what was the point of including the motorcycle? Not long after, Dolph’s gardener, a Frenchman named Victor (Eric Judor), informs Dolph that the palm tree in his backyard has somehow transformed into a pine tree. This will not do. The pine must be uprooted and replaced with a new palm tree.

Although Dolph was fired from his job three months ago, he still goes to his office and pretends to work for several hours. He doesn’t see the harm in it, but his former co-workers can only look at him scornfully. It bears mentioning that the fire sprinklers in this office building are always on, and that the drenched employees sitting at their desks are apparently unaware of it. Meanwhile, Dolph has received a bouquet of flowers with a note that has a phone number written on it. He calls it, and the man at the other end of the line says he knows where Paul has gone. Here enters Master Chang (William Fitchner), a New Age guru stereotype who speaks with a pseudo-Indian accent and has burned half of his face with acid, at which point he finally came to love his reflection. This is in perfect alignment with his philosophy of not knowing what you have until it’s gone; he and his team kidnap beloved pets, then return them to their owners, who in turn appreciate them more.

Unfortunately, Paul isn’t there for Chang to return; the van he was in crashed and burned. However, there’s evidence to suggest that Paul survived the crash. Chang gives Dolph a self-authored two-volume book series on the relationship between humans and dogs, which eventually tells the reader how to form a telepathic link with your pet. As Dolph reads up, a private investigator personally hired by Chang (Steve Little) delves deeper into Paul’s case. In due time, he will extract the memories of one of Paul’s bowel movements, which is seen on a crude monitor and looks like a colonoscopy. Meanwhile, Victor becomes romantically involved with the young woman from the pizzeria Dolph spoke to on the phone (Alexis Dziena). She believes Victor is actually Dolph, although she will see both men in person and not realize that they’re different.

All throughout, little nonsensical touches are thrown into the mix. Dolph’s alarm clock, for example, will always transition from 7:59 am to 7:60. There’s also the fact that one of the characters, who I will not reveal, dies, only to reappear in a later scene with no explanation as to why. There’s also an instantaneous pregnancy, an even more instantaneous birth, a scene on a beach where someone is repeatedly stabbed with a broken wine bottle, telepathic communication between Chang and random people, and a car driving aimlessly through the desert. So there you have it. Wrong is deliberately designed to not make any sense, to be a nihilistic commentary on the randomness of life. Does that mean it’s successful? Not according to my sensibilities. But then again, there’s no accounting for taste.

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03/29/2013

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Unrated

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Drafthouse Films

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About the Author: Chris Pandolfi