Film Review – Wrong

Wrong Movie PosterPet ownership is a strange concept. When thought about, the idea goes beyond simply caring for an animal. Over the course of history, pet ownership has gone through many, various changes, from worshiping an animal as a deity, to using them to battle each other for bets, to including them as an official member of the family. Whatever it may be, the word “ownership” carries with it a certain weight. Some choose to see it as sharing space, while others see it as a right of humanity’s dominance at the top of the food chain. What is certain is that regardless of the view, animals and humans have a reciprocal relationship of needs, and this is something that can be transposed to any relationship, be it between animal and human, or humans with each other.

The aspect of interaction, and, almost more importantly, needs, is what is at heart in Quentin Dupieux’s new film Wrong. The story, or what I feel is appropriate to divulge of the story, is about a man named Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick), who wakes up one morning to find his dog, Paul, missing. Paul appears to be Dolph’s closest relationship, and the disappearance of Paul smacks a bit of reality out of Dolph, whose search for his missing companion leads him on a surrealistic journey of self discovery. Along his way, Dolph crosses paths with a self-help guru named Master Chang, played to hilarious effect by William Fichtner. Master Chang has a theory about human/animal interaction that begins with the human’s utmost adoration for the pet, and over time subsides to taking the pet for granted, a concept that can surely be applied to all relationships. However, Master Chang’s theory continues, if the pet is taken away from the owner, the owner will suddenly realize how much it did appreciate the pet, and will do everything in its power to get that pet back; so when it does, it will love the pet again just like it did at the beginning.

Dupieux’s presentation of the film is a stage for visual metaphors that come just as matter-of-factly as they do spontaneously. A palm tree becomes a pine; it rains inside an office building; people die, then reappear. While it may seem at first haphazardly random, there’s an element of method behind the madness. As surreal as it gets, it’s never so far from the bounds of reality that the viewer’s connection to the film is lost. In fact, the seemingly bizarre is at hand in such a way that it becomes a puzzle for the viewer to figure out what Dupieux is saying; in this way, the film reminded me much of Steven Soderbergh’s surrealistic escapade Schizopolis, which was a movie that led to many sophomore-level philosophical discussions about its meaning when it originally came out.

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What really works to the film’s advantage is how entertaining it is all the while as it messes with making sense. Jack Plotnick plays Dolph’s refusal to deal with reality with such affection for the character, no matter how neurotic he is, that he’s empathetic on every level. You care for Dolph, and care about him sorting his life out, coming to terms with the reality outside of his perception, and, most importantly, finding Paul. Weaving in and out of Dolph’s existence is a cast of supporting characters that act like support beams holding the entirety of a structure up. While Dolph is the epicenter of the film, and a worthy one, the film would simply not work to the successful effect it does without the characters that surround and make up Dolph’s world.

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These people who Dolph interacts with regularly are a neighbor, Mike (Regan Burns), who decides to leave his daily existence and drive to the end of the world; a gardener named Victor (Eric Judor), who is more of a friend to Dolph, and a person that helps keeps Dolph’s sanity intact by organizing the external existence of Dolph’s home; there’s an employee of a new pizza joint called Jesus Organic Pizza, whose name is Emma (Alexis Dziena), and who becomes wooed by Dolph’s strange OCD questioning of Jesus Organic Pizza’s food preparations. Then, along with Master Chang, there is a pet detective named Detective Ronnie (Steve Little), who is hired to help find Paul, and comes across as more of what you’d expect a pet detective to be like than Ace Ventura. Each of these characters is just as enjoyable and important to the story as Dolph is, taking an otherwise complete viewing experience into the realm of pleasant absurdity.

Given the storytelling evolution to this film from Dupieux’s previous feature, Rubber, one can’t help but be interested and excited to see what he does next. The stripped-down elements of filmmaking that Dupieux employs amongst the tripped-out insanity of both of his films is a refreshing alternative alongside such over-the-top fair that comes in the form of Hollywood blockbusters. And as strange as this film may be, it’s ultimately endearing, and has a caring heart that won’t just make any pet owner walk away appreciating their pets more, but may make anyone walk away appreciating any relationship they have morewhich, in my book, makes for a successful exercise of a movie.

Final Grade: A


Benjamin Nason is a writer, film-maker and critic from the Pacific Northwest, where he lives with his cat Lulu.

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