Runs Fri. April 5-Thurs. April 18 at Grand Illusion. Not rated. 94 minutes.
Quentin Dupieux, a prominent French electronic musician who goes by the stage name Mr. Oizo, made his mark as a filmmaker in 2010 with Rubber, a comedy about a car tire that murders people using telekinesis. Dupieux’s second film takes a similarly absurdist bent. Jack Plotnick, best known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Reno 911!, plays a suburbanite named Dolph Springer, who awakens one morning to a series of strange happenings. His alarm clock clicks from 7:59 to 7:60 instead of 8:00, his neighbor is acting fishy and getting ready to skip town, and a traffic cop is unnecessarily rude to him. Most troublingly, his boon companion, a dog named Paul, has disappeared without a trace.
Dupieux describes Wrong as “an homage to this special love between people and dogs,” and while there are traces of that sentiment—Dolph drives around the neighborhood holding a squeaky toy out the window, hoping to attract Paul—it’s not an accurate description of the film at all. A dog doesn’t even appear on screen until the last few minutes. The bulk of the movie follows Dolph’s puzzling, beleaguered life; he’s like some sort of suffering Job, who keeps running into people even weirder than he is. His gardener is trying to figure out how a palm tree in the backyard turned into a pine. A very forward pizza parlor employee named Emma has an insistent crush on him. He hires a pet detective (Eastbound & Down’s Steve Little), who shows up with a Polaroid camera and starts tasting Paul’s dog food. And then arrives a mysterious man with a half-burnt face and long pigtail named Master Chang (a very un-Asian William Fichtner), who drops maddeningly incomplete hints as to Paul’s whereabouts.
Surreal tableaux are interspersed throughout Dolph’s meandering story. A crew of firemen ignore a van smoldering on fire; one is texting, another pulls down his pants, squats on the street, and opens a newspaper. At Dolph’s old office, the fire sprinklers are always raining, but the dripping-wet employees keep typing, drinking coffee, and answering phones. These scenes memorable, but contribute nothing to the narrative. Wrong’s one right is Plotnick’s performance. His Dolph is convincingly dazed and bewildered, just as confused by the nonsensical plot as filmgoers will be.