Director/Screenplay/Photography – Quentin Dupieux, Producer – Gregory Bernard, Music – Mr Oizo [Quentin Dupieux] & Tahiti Boy (David Sztanke), Visual Effects – Fabien Feintrenie, Special Effects Supervisor – Wayne Beauchamp, Makeup Effects – Hugo Villaseñor, Production Design – Joan Le Boru. Production Company – Realitism Films/Arte France Cinema/Kinology/Love Streams/Agnes B. Productions/Iconoclast/Rubber Films/Backup Films/Canal +/Cine +
Jack Plotnick (Dolph Springer), Eric Judor (Victor), Alexis Dziena (Emma), William Fichtner (Master Chang), Steve Little (Detective Ronnie), Regan Burns (Mike), Mark Burnham (Officer Duke)
Dolph Springer wakes up one morning and is upset to find that his dog Paul is missing. He voices his frustration to Emma, the girl who answers the phone at a dial-a-pizza. Dolph then sets out to find Paul on a journey that takes him through a series of increasingly more bizarre situations. He goes to his workplace where it rains indoors and he insists on turning up to work despite being laid off five months ago. The palm tree in Dolph’s yard has inexplicably become a pine tree. His neighbour Mike, who constantly denies he has been jogging despite evidence otherwise, sets out on a journey to find why he cannot admit this by driving to the end of the world. Meanwhile, Emma decides that she had such a moving phone conversation with Dolph that she wants him, only to instead sleep with Dolph’s gardener Victor when he picks up the message she leaves for Dolph. Afterwards, she decides to leave her husband to move in with Dolph. Dolph then meets the guru Master Chang who explains how he kidnapped Dolph’s dog as part of a scheme to help people love their pets more – only for Paul to become lost after the kidnap vehicle was caught in an accident.
French director/writer Quentin Dupieux made an appearance seemingly out of nowhere with his third film Rubber (2010), a parody of a monster movie featuring a killer tire that turned into a completely insane meta-fiction that wound in the audience watching it and kept screwing with conventions. The film became a word of mouth hit at international film festivals. Rubber alone would have been enough to have given Quentin Dupieux a cult reputation. He had earlier made Nonfilm (2002) and Steak (2007), neither of which seem to be widely seen outside France. Before that, Dupieux has maintained a career as an electronic musician under the name Mr Oizo (he also composes this film’s score under that name). Wrong was Dupieux’s fourth film and he subsequently went onto make the unrelated Wrong Cops (2013) and Reality (2014), Keep an Eye Out (2018), Deerskin (2019) and Mandibles (2020) in a similar gonzo surrealist vein.
We are certainly back in Quentin Dupieux territory as the film opens on a pan around the surreal image of a group of firemen gathered in the middle of the street, one appearing to be squatting to go to the toilet in the middle of the road, another calmly texting, as all the while a burning van is ignored on the side of the road. You keep waiting for things to get as crazed as Stephen Spinella’s opening monologue at the opening of Rubber but Dupieux is determined to leave Wrong as a slow burner that just sits on the edge of the mind-spinningly weird.
Progressive scenes hit in with a David Lynch-ian sense of deadpan – Jack Plotnick goes to work in the office where it is always raining indoors and everyone carries on oblivious, before we then learn that he was fired four months ago but has still continued to come to work; the bizarre set of occurrences that come about after he makes a phone call to phone operator Alexis Dzenia, she delivers a pizza to him along with her number saying she wants him, which is taken by gardener Eric Judor who pretends to be Dolph and sleeps with her only for the real Dolph to then find her on his doorstep ready to move in, she only mildly puzzled that before he was dark skinned and is now a white guy; the palm tree in the backyard that has inexplicably turned into a pine tree; a detective (Steve Little) who is hired to find the missing dog and employs a device that is able to read the memories of the dog’s turds (the film even has an credits for the person who produced ‘Turd Memories’); Dolph’s neighbour (Regan Burns) who refuses to acknowledge he is jogging despite the evidence otherwise and goes on a quest to find the reasons why, which involve him ‘driving to the end of the world’, represented by a journey across an endless white plain by the end of the film. The film becomes even more demented with the introduction of William Fichtner as a guru who has an hilarious scene where he calmly explains how he kidnapped Jack Plotnick’s dog as part of a scheme to help him realise how much he loves his pet, while insisting that Dolph develop his telepathic communications with the dog.
Everything winds together with a sense of peculiarly akilter synchronicity that is amusing. On the other hand, what you keep expecting is that Wrong is going to be as brilliantly mind-bending as Rubber was – and it never is. At most, it is a peculiarly puzzling amusement. Reverse things and I think one would be hard-pressed to think of Wrong becoming a midnight cult favourite if it had been released before Rubber. It is a film that can be more appreciated once you already have a sense of Quentin Dupieux’s weird sense of humour than necessarily one that flicks a whole lot of light-switches on its own terms.