Wonderland, by David Bax
Watching Quentin Dupieux’s Wrong is a fun experience in that one is always wondering what the next weird thing is gonna be. A palm tree that turns into a pine tree overnight? Charming. An office building where the sprinklers are constantly running and everyone goes about their business? Great. A guy who walks around painting people’s cars primary colors at random? What a character. Yet it’s a cheap, primitive and ephemeral kind of fun. If Dupieux actually had something to say other than recycled comments on white, middle-class ennui, I must have missed it amongst the idiosyncratic noise.
To the extent that it concerns anything, the plot concerns Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick), a man who lives in a nice house and pays a gardener to come daily despite having been fired from a menial job three months prior. That hasn’t stopped him from going to his old workplace everyday, though, and sitting at his desk in front of a computer that isn’t turned on. One morning, while getting ready to go to his nonexistent job, Dolph notices that his dog is gone. Enter Master Chang (William Fichtner), a sort of New-Agey guru and author who specializes in the relationships between people and their pets and who may or may not be interested in helping Dolph find his dog.
Part of the joke of the ever-unfolding weirdness is that no one in the film questions it (the one exception taking place when Master Chang asks Dolph to look after a “dog” who turns out to be a floppy-haired human boy named Joshua). But unlike the works of, say, Lewis Carroll, whose characters’ aggressive eagerness to accept the nonsensical lends a hallucinogenic quality to the work, Dupieux and his lead maintain an even-keeled disaffection, the end result of which is an inability on the part of the viewer to integrate with the film. We watch at the same bemused distance as Dolph and remain equally unchanged by the experience.
What Wrong does have going for it is its supporting cast. Eastbound and Down’s Steve Little as a detective and French actor Eric Judor as the aforementioned gardener are good fun. Alexis Dziena, as a pizza restaurant employee who thinks she’s in love with Dolph but is not, masters the endearing sweetness and the infuriating irritation of innocence. And the always great Fichtner is possessed of a wholly developed oddness that is not one bit self-conscious. You will be convinced that whatever completely invented accent he’s doing is actually his own.
Fichtner, sadly, is not the star of the film. The affectedly soft-spoken Plotnick, with his slight, gawky frame and tousle of cutely wild hair, is like the same author-surrogate we’ve seen in a thousand pointless, navel-gazing indies made by men who are full of ideas but have nothing to say.
Wrong is a suitably diverting film if that’s all you require but it makes no lasting impression. When a film isn’t even excited about itself enough to keep its ending a secret, what is there for us to get excited about?