Director: Quentin Dupieux
Cast: Jack Plotnick, Eric Judor, Alexis Dziena, Steve Little, William Fichtner and Regan Burns
Being absurd is almost always taken as a lark or gimmick when applied in movies. It automatically alienates audiences and leaves them uneasy with how the story is delivered. No one ever takes it seriously, but when done right, it can involve audiences, while at the same time giving them a good, heartfelt narrative. In the new film from French experimental filmmaker, Quentin Dupieux, “Wrong” embraces its absurdist nature and never apologizes for telling a story the way the director sees fit.
It follows the story of Dolph Springer, a man who lost his dog. The premise is easy enough but what unfolds is not easy at all. Through a string of character interactions, we learn what is being played with is not just a man trying to find his dog, but the audiences expectations of genre, storytelling and filmmaking. As the audience, we see that this is not a conventional film, although the story might be. From the first moments of this film, we are left to ask the eternal question, “Why?”
Starting with a group of firemen surrounding a van burning in a mighty blaze in the background. They do nothing to put it out, rather they shrug, or look at their phones, but regardless they stay at bay. Why are they doing this? Aren’t firemen suppose to put out fires? In “Wrong,” it is not. Keeping in mind, the title of the movie may serve as the biggest clue on how to take in this film. Every thing is wrong. Clocks don’t turnover to 8:00AM when held at 7:59AM, they actually go to 7:60AM, dramatic music where dramatic music doesn’t fit, and character introduction shots, simply to engage the audience on how ineffectual these characters are. “Wrong” is an exercise in the best David Lynchian filmmaking.
Much of “Wrong” plays out like a David Lynch movie like the missing scenes in “Lost Highway” or “Mulholland Dr,” and at its very best, engages an audience in a “Twin Peaks-like” mystery. It also delivers this strange Steven Soderbergh’s “Schizopolis-like” awareness and sensibility. This is complete with oddball characters and red herrings that leads audiences into the rabbit hole even deeper and deeper. I can only imagine filmmaker Quentin Dupieux laughing while he pulled a fast one on the audience. It’s a fevered dream, where up means down and down means strange but Quentin Dupieux does a fantastic job balancing the absurdity with genuine character interactions and moments.
Holding the film in place is Jack Plotnick playing Dolph Springer. He grounds the film in such a way to make the storytelling elements consistent while the filmmaking gets more and more high pitched and comically absurd. I feel most filmmakers would rather take this matter and play it for its shock value but both Jack Plotnick and Quentin Dupieux decide to do something more interesting. And boy, do they pull it off. “Wrong” is one of the best ways to subvert an audience but at the same time engage and involve them in the mystery of the whereabouts of Dolph Springer’s dog, Paul.
It’s all in the title. “Wrong” is completely wrong in the best ways imaginable. I feel the most impressive thing about “Wrong” is that it never takes the audience for granted and never feels self-indulgent when it easily could. In this way, “Wrong” is playful and strange but at the same time shows incredible restraint. It always keeps the audience on their toes but is never afraid to go out to levels that may frighten, delight or perplex them. Embrace the absurdity!