Starring Jack Plotnick, William Fichtner. Written and directed by Quentin Dupieux. 14A. 94 min.Opens April 19 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
With its opening shot of a bored crew of firemen doing their best to ignore a burning van located a few feet away, Wrong takes no time to establish itself as another singularly odd feature by Quentin Dupieux, the French musician and filmmaker also known as Mr. Oizo. Whereas his 2010 cult fave Rubber was a horror movie of sorts—albeit one about an automobile tire with deadly telekinetic powers—Dupieux’s latest travels deeper into untrammeled terrain with its story of one man’s bizarre misadventures during his search for his missing dog. It’s a comedy, but of a variety seldom attempted by any of Dupieux’s peers, its brand of absurdism landing somewhere between the plays of Eugène Ionesco, the looniest sketches of Monty Python, and the most adventurous efforts of the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim brigade. No wonder Wrong’s own cast members can sometimes look bewildered by their circumstances.
Nevertheless, former Reno 911 regular Jack Plotnick grounds much of the lunacy with his performance as Dolph. A tightly wound type who’s wracked by the loss of his beloved pooch, he proves to be the closest thing to a sane person we meet in the movie’s highly peculiar version of Los Angeles, where even the most mundane social interactions can go dangerously awry. Things are no better for Dolph at his Charlie Kaufman–like workplace, where the employees are continually drenched by unexplained indoor rain showers yet grimly persevere with their daily tasks. Our hero’s quest to be reunited with his canine best friend takes another turn when he meets Master Chang (William Fichtner), an expert in “abuse prevention for pets” with seemingly mystical abilities, an indeterminate accent, and a pronounced affection for ascots.
The fact that another of Wrong’s characters can suddenly die and then reappear in fine fettle a few scenes later is perfectly indicative of Dupieux’s disdain for narrative conventions. Though some of his ideas inevitably succeed better than others, few contemporary comedies display anything like its ingenuity or daring. For any viewer who’s sympathetic to Dupieux’s deliriously askew sensibility, Wrong is bound to feel very, very right.