By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
As the movie opens, there’s a close-up of an alarm clock reading 7:59. The camera holds, waiting for the numbers to tick over. We’ve seen this shot a million times in films.
But if we think we know what’s going to happen next, we would be wrong. As in “Wrong,” the title of this new film by ultra-quirky director Quentin Dupiuex, whose previous movie “Rubber” cast an automobile tire in the lead role.
I won’t give away the joke of that 7:59 scene. But it turns out to be, in its tiny, perfect way, the high point of this movie.
There’s something “off” about the day that dawns for Dolph Springer (nice performance by Jack Plotnick), who lives in a pleasant neighborhood. He can’t find his dog, Paul, and the disappearance will haunt the rest of his day.
The day includes going to work, even though Dolph was fired three months earlier. This explains why his co-workers are shooting him dirty looks.
It doesn’t explain why it is raining in his office. You will begin to understand the mind of Dupieux when you realize that nobody ever mentions the fact that a monsoon is going on in the workplace (although his boss does invite him to have a towel when he enters her office).
Eventually, after tangents involving Dolph’s French gardener (Eric Judor) and a young woman (Alexis Dziena) who works at a pizza place, Dolph actually gets a lead on what might have happened to his dog.
This introduces us to the mysterious Master Chang, who wears a thin ponytail and writes quasi-self-help books, or maybe books about human-dog communication. His face is scarred because he threw acid on himself as a child, an act he says made him appreciate that he had a face (he is truly a half-glass-full kind of guy).
Master Chang is played by William Fichtner, that hawk-faced gem of a character actor, and he brings “Wrong” to its rightest moments, adopting a calm demeanor and an indefinable accent. Happily, Master Chang keeps popping up at unexpected moments.
The movie needs him. “Wrong” embodies the kind of breezy absurdity that knocked around in the early 1970s, but it lacks anything that might give it weight: a little satirical edge, or maybe some anger.
Instead, it bobs along, conjuring up some amusing sight gags. Short films with this tone can be real winners, but it’s difficult to sustain the whimsy over 90 minutes, and “Wrong” doesn’t make it — although a cult following is guaranteed.
“Wrong” (2½ stars)
A series of strange occurrences, all happening to one normal man (Jack Plotnick) after his beloved dog disappears. The breezy surrealism of this movie (from “Rubber” director Quentin Dupiuex) can’t really sustain itself for 90 minutes, although William Fichtner’s self-help guru provides a boost. Cult status is guaranteed.
Rated: Not rated; probably PG-13 for language.
Showing: Grand Illusion.