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PARK CITY — Answering the question “what’s weirder than a movie about a sentient car tire on a killing spree?” Rubber director Quentin Dupieux gives us Wrong, a literal and figurative shaggy-dog story that takes its surreal kinks in stride. The presence of a comprehensible (if skeletal) plot beneath it all should help at the box office, allowing arthouse patrons to feel they “got it” even if they weren’t on board for every quirk.
Jack Plotnick plays Dolph, a mild, inquisitive man who has lost his dog. Setting out to find it one morning, he slowly learns of a bizarre conspiracy gone wrong, leaving him the victim of a plan mysterious forces set in motion, ostensibly for his benefit. (Viewers will have no trouble seeing allegory in the plot, though direct this-equals-that readings seem to underestimate the weirdness of Dupieux’s sensibility.)
Even before he learns of this plan, though, Dolph’s quest has deeply strange overtones. If the look on his face is more suggestive of subconscious existential puzzlement than a pet owner’s anxiety, there’s good reason: Things are more than a little off in Dolph’s pale-colored world, from the alarm clock that wakes him at 7:60 am to the palm tree in his front yard that turns into a pine overnight. Wrong’s reality is one in which the things we take for granted — a rabbit in a pizza joint’s logo, say — are discussed at length while more puzzling matters — an office in which fire sprinklers run all day — are taken in stride.
If that workplace where it’s always raining has something of a Charlie Kaufman vibe, and a later scene involving backwards motion and sudden violence smells of David Lynch, Dupieux makes it all his own in context. Every now and then he goes one “wrong” too far — as with the goofy, amorphously-Asian accent affected by William Fichtner as “Master Chang” (Fichtner’s mystery-man performance holds together despite it). But even the little missteps tend to be funny, and therefore forgivable.
Plotnick’s unkempt persistence and a wry score by Tahiti Boy and Mr. Oizo (Oizo being the nom de musique of Dupieux himself) give the film just enough narrative momentum to carry it through short stretches in which cryptic plotlessness threatens to sink it. If the premise isn’t as attention-grabbing as Rubber’s was, the execution should help build the filmmaker’s following.
Venue: Sundance Film Festival, World Dramatic Competition
Production Companies: Realitism films, Arte France Cinema, Kinology
Cast: Jack Plotnick, Eric Judor, Alexis Dziena, Steve Little, Regan Burns, Marc Burnham, William Fichtner
Director-screenwriter-director of photography-editor: Quentin Dupieux
Producers: Gregory Bernard, Charles-Marie Anthonioz, Nicolas Lhermitte
Executive producers: Gregoire Melin, Sindika Dokolo, George Goldman
Production designer: Joan Le Boru
Music: Tahiti Boy, Mr. Oizo
Costume designer: Jamie Bresnan
No rating, 93 minutes
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