Wrong does surrealism right

Wrong, the latest from French filmmaker and musician Quentin Dupieux, is one of the most ridiculous films I’ve seen in recent memory—in a good way.

Jack Plotnick in Wrong

French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux is known for his 2010 movie Rubber, about a sentient and sinister tire, as well as for his music project Mr. Oizo. His latest film, Wrong, is one of the most ridiculous films I’ve seen in recent memory— in a good way.

The film opens with a fireman taking a dump in the middle of a highway, while his co-workers stand around as a van burns to a crisp in front of them—setting the scene for the absurdist tone that Dupieux maintains throughout the movie. Jack Plotnick (who was also in Rubber and who comedy fans might recognize from Reno: 911) stars as Dolph, a suburban single man who wakes up one morning (when his clock hits 7:60) to discover that his beloved dog is missing.

The story involves his quest to find his dog, but the loose premise is really just a framework for a series of increasingly surreal tableaux. One of the many subplots involves Dolph’s backyard palm tree, which has mysteriously transformed into a pine. His office has the sprinklers on at all times, so everyone works in the middle of a downpour. A detective (played by Eastbound and Down’s Steve Little) investigates the canine disappearance with technology that accesses a dog turd’s memory. And so on.

The tone is somewhere between a drier Michel Gondry, David Lynch at his most goofy, John Waters in his PG phase and Tim Burton circa Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. It’s a tricky tone to pull off; it constantly threatens to degenerate into “wacky for its own sake,” but Dupieux manages to stay on the right side of the line for the most part. If he was trying to use this tone in any kind of conventional drama or comedy, it might be insufferably quirky, but the film’s total disconnection from realism (the alarm clock early on indicates we’re in a different universe) means that he is free to create his own logic. Dupieux’s dialogue is sharply funny, and the performers all play it totally straight without winking irony.

I suppose you could read the film as some kind of outsider’s comment on the surreal nature of middle-American life (the only presence from Dupieux’s homeland is Eric Judor, who plays a Hispanic landscaper but speaks with a heavy French accent in one of the film’s innumerable absurdities). Or maybe Dupieux (who shot and edited the film as well as writing and directing it, and composed some of the music) is just a talented guy with a weird sense of humour. At any rate, Wrong is frequently hilarious and always totally original. ■

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