In the prologue to director Quentin Dupieux’s 2010 film Rubber, a character declares to the audience that every great film contains an element of “no reason.” It serves as an appropriate introduction to the form and philosophy of Dupieux, and should be kept in mind for his latest domestic release, Wrong.
There is plenty in Wrong that happens for seemingly no reason: a palm tree transforms into a pine tree, a man repaints cars on a whim, and an office is caught in a continual monsoon. But the surreal blends in with a grounded, straightforward narrative.
It’s easy for film buffs to first compare Wrong to the work of surrealist filmmaking paragon Luis Buñuel, but Dupieux’s film isn’t purely stream of consciousness. Dupieux crafts a world on screen that blends a normal everyday world of regular problems with moments of absurdity, which is accepted without question. Perhaps Godard is a more appropriate comparison.
The plot of Wrong is driven by Dolph, played by Jack Plotnick, who wakes up one morning to discover that his beloved dog, Paul, has gone missing. The void in his life exasperates Dolph, and it tears at the fabric of his daily life. He can’t even take solace in the job that he still clocks in at, despite being fired from it three months ago.
The characters that populate this setting provide important grounding within this nonsensical world. Jack Plotnick’s Dolph could fit into any other film about a pencil-pushing Everyman suffering from an existentialist breakdown when life pushes him too far. Paul the dog means everything to him, and the pain of his loss hangs on every word.
Kudos should be given to William Fichtner in his appearance as the eccentric guru Master Chang, who admits to kidnapping Paul and other pets as a means to make owners appreciate their pets more in their absence. Fichtner often fills the role of no-nonsense tough guys, but he commits to being fully earnest as Chang and provides the funniest pieces of the film.
The art and direction of the film mesh well together, with cinematography that understands how to frame characters when sharing dialogue in the same scene, whether face-to-face or when speaking on the phone with one another. It’s these scenes that suggest how characters can fail to make important connections when communicating.
Dupieux’s experience as an electronic musician comes through in an ominous, yet minimalist score that only shows up when it feels necessary. It wouldn’t be surprising if he also had a hand in some of the film’s sound design elements, particularly in Dolph’s first conversation with his neighbor.
Altogether, Wrong is a solid presentation of Dupieux’s talents as an artist, with surrealism mixed in with a relatable narrative about a guy who just wants his dog back. You can catch screenings at your local Alamo Drafthouse.