Director: Quentin Dupieux
Screenwriter: Quentin Dupieux
Cast: Jack Plotnick, Eric Judor, Alexis Dziena, William Fichtner, Steve Little, Mark Burnham
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 3/18/13
Opens: March 29, 2013
Boldly flaunting his love of the absurd, Quentin Dupieux presents an everyman in an anonymous area of California who is frustrated by all he sees around him, unable to communicate with his fellows in anything resembling the reality with which he is familiar. Dupieux, whose previous contribution “Rubber” about a tire with telepathic powers, is more grounded in some form of reality this time, the human beings still speaking in the kind of English that we in the audience can comprehend. If Dupieux wants to focus primarily on our inability to communicate, he is in good company. Eugene Ionesco, a founder of the Theatre of the Absurd, touched upon the same theme in “Rhinocéros,” which went further than Dupieux in satirizing the evils of conformity and, even more broadly, the meaningless of existence.
In what could have served as an extended sketch on Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone,” “Wrong” is immediately shown to be absurdist by framing a group a fire fighters sitting around while a vehicle is burning, indifferently watching one of the team squatting with his newspaper and relieving himself. To support the surrealism of the movie, the next frame shows finds Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick) awakening as the alarm clock goes from 7:59 to 7:60, hinting that “Wrong” is a new version of “Groundhog Day,” which it is not.
Dolph’s dog Paul is missing. “Wrong” takes us on Dolph’s efforts to find his sole companion, often the butt of cruelty and indifference along the way. His neurotic neighbor calls him in effect a liar. His office mates shun and belittle him, while the boss adds insult to injury by demanding that he not show his face again in her travel business—in which indoor rain is treated as nothing unusual by the others. He is hit on by Emma (Alexis Dziena) who takes orders in a pizza joint, and is obeyed loyally by Victor (Victor Judor), his gardener, who tries to please his boss when the latter’s palm tree turns into a pine. Master Chang (William Fichtner), sporting a burn on one side of his face, sets up a meeting with Dolph, explaining why the dog is missing, then putting a strange detective (Steve Little) on Paul’s trail.
In what looks like an alternate universe and yet bears enough anchorage in reality, “Wrong,” whose generic title could have been used for any work of cinema and literature that evokes conflict, becomes tiresome after the fifth of sixth attempt at Kafkaesque exhibitions, as Dupieux makes his point now and again, then again and now, that people have difficulty understanding one another, and that the segments that are understandable are cruel. Jack Plotnick saves the story by coming off as a modern version of Peter Sellers’s deadpan character Chance in Hal Ashby’s “Being There,” except that nothing he or anyone around him says could be mistaken as profound.
Unrated. 93 minutes © 2013 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C+
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – B-