Fantasia 2012: ‘Wrong”s divisiveness makes it right for some, terribly wrong for others

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Wrong

Directed by Quentin Dupieux

Written by Quentin Dupieux

U.S.A., 2012

Two years ago writer and director Quentin Dupieux brought Rubber to Fantasia and the world at large, which told the story of an evil tire which rolled around and killed people. On one side of the film fan community it was hailed as clever, quirky and uproarious, while opposing them were those who unequivocally dismissed it, calling it dull and pretentious. It appears that this is the director’s comfort zone, making movies which will split audiences down the middle. Dupieux returns to Fantasia this year with his latest endeavour, Wrong, and having now seen it, it would appear he is up to his old tricks again.

Dolph Springer’s (Jack Plotnick) life is unwinding before his very eyes. His biggest problem is the fact that his pet dog has left him for no inexplicable reason. Distraught at this terrible turn of events, he begins a quest to find and bring home his one and only true friend. Much to his dismay, even more emotional and psychological trauma awaits this lonely, neurotic little man. He was fired from his place of employment several months ago, yet his persistence in showing up nevertheless and pretending to fulfil his role with the company (underneath the constantly activated sprinkler system) has irked his former colleagues who wish to see him leave for good. Then there also the matter of the palm tree in his backyard which has magically transformed into a pine tree, a phenomenon his gardener Victor (Eric Judor, dressed to look like a cross between a cowboy and a fashion model) cannot explain. As if things were not strange enough already, they grow even weirder when Dolph is summoned by the mysterious Mr. Chang (William Fichtner), who may have information as to the whereabouts of his canine.

It is difficult to fathom how, provided how the director’s previous effort divided audiences so decisively, Wrong will cause a different effect on the people who give it a try. Dupieux is uninterested in entertaining the masses. He has no pretence of winning over legions of admirers the world over. Rather, what matters is to make the films which suit his style, and if anybody is willing to tag along for the ride and find enjoyment, then all the better. Fair is fair, and it is very fair to say that Dupieux does have his supporters, some quite staunch in fact. It is not as though his films are so inaccessible so as to alienate everyone. Wrong was very well received by some and the crowd who attended the Fantasia screening over the weekend were eating up the jokes like there was never going to be a another comedy film ever made, ever. None of that changes the fact that the  comedy which gives Wrong its identity will undeniably satisfy a portion of the wider movie going audience, maybe not even that large of a portion, while leaving everyone else in the dust wondering ‘what was that all about?’

At this stage in the review, the author should reveal that the brand of comedy Dupieux infuses in Wrong does not tickle the funny bone, meaning that the much of the remainder of the article shall have to be dealt with answering the question as to ‘why?’ Wrong produced little to no laughs and maybe only a handful of chuckles. In doing so, the article shall keep using as its framework Wrong so as to not derail the topic on hand. There was potential for laughter, that much should be admitted to. Several jokes, be they one timers or of the running variety, emerge out of Dupieux’s attempt to lend his movie an existential bent. The aforementioned tree joke, which involves asking questions and searching for answers for events beyond human comprehension, the presence of a pizzeria phone receptionist (Alexis Dziena) who falls in love with Dolph but cannot tell him or his gardener, who is black, apart, all the while being in desperate need to attention while neither Dolph or Victor are willing nor capable of satisfying said desire. The most obvious is of course Dolph’s obsession with sticking to his previous job despite already having been let go, as if the job means his existence, his very purpose even though he is not actually employee there. These are some silly if commendable attempts at providing Wrong with some unexpected weight.

 

The issues arise in how those ideas are conveyed via comedy. Jokes which do not formulate naturally out of the behaviour of the characters or situations they find themselves in do not land as comfortably as they otherwise would. Wrong is an exemplary case of how the jokes feel as inorganic as  possible. Every decision by the director and crew comes across as if the intent was purely to dig for comedy through quirk and oddities. What is the weirdest things that can happen next? Very well, go with it because that is the tone which must be set for the film. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to make a comedy which is off-kilter, but in the case of Wrong, it seems as though that was the sole goal filmmakers desired to achieve. As a result, story and characterizations both suffer dearly, in particular the former. The movie has very little momentum, but then again how could it? It just wants to interest people who are looking for the next strange indie film. At one point, Dolph telephones new pizzeria in town to question the logic behind the company’s logo. Why is he putting a halt to his dog search in order to spend 10 minutes on the phone asking asinine questions? That is simply the way things role in Wrong. The movie essentially crumbles on its own neuroses and eccentricities, which is a shame given how committed the cast is nearly across the board (star Jack Plotnick is lifeless). Had they been as committed to a more favourable project…who knows.

That is what one will get when watching this film: eccentric. If one does not want that, then thet are in big trouble heading into this film. Who is to say really, about the merits of a comedy film the likes of Wrong? The majority of the audience loved it dearly. Maybe that is but a result of seeing the picture with a festival crowd. Sitting there in the theatre, staying shamefully quiet while everybody laughed and slapped their knees…maybe I’m the one in the wrong.

-Edgar Chaput

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