Review Of Paint

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In theory, it would be great to see Wilson in an afro and being the gentle Bob Ross on a sitcom. But Paint (starring Carl Nargle, the #1 Vermont public television painter), as a show, is unable to overcome the age-old mistake of having a fun idea and executing it poorly. What should have been an eccentric Anchorman-esque romp about reality finally catching up with a self-absorbed local celeb is instead a meandering, annoying rom-com that’s not very funny and isn’t even a little romantic.

Carl Nargle (Owen Wilson) introduces us to his small world where he has been living all his life since two decades ago in Burlington, Vermont. Just like real painter Bob Ross, both visually and temperamentally, Carl has hosted the “hit” local PBS show for twenty years called Paint with Carl Nagle. Except this time around he is not; women hit on him anyway including Katherine (Michaela Watkins), his ex who is also an unlucky assistant to the station’s general manager (Stephen Root). In fact, while downtown this whispers rapt seniors, barflies, and soccer moms paint pedestrian landscapes of local natural landmarks using such encouraging phrases as ‘You can do it’ or ‘Yes you can’. He must be getting away with murder because these people either don’t ever leave town or because their TV reception sucks.

These are ways McAdams makes Carl’s world look strange so that we could understand him better than before through Patrick Cady’s cinematography: they seem stuck in the 70s-era public broadcasting style which often applies to under-funded PBS stations across America today. However, this notion becomes even more complicated when one realizes that the story takes place nowadays and GM Tony decides to freshen up their lineup. This comes in the form of Ambrosia (Ciara Renée) and her artistic program ‘Painting with Ambrosia’. She paints outside the box, and is prolific and talented. Nargle feels immediately threatened because everyone is falling for Ambrosia’s winds of change as she quickly grabs all the attention away from him.

This is not the comedy duo like in Zoolander that you would expect. Here, McAdams lightly touches on it through a Pledge Drive sequence that has some humorous aspects but largely concentrates on Carl and Katherine’s relationship which has been stupid for 22 years. As we remember both past relationships and their current dating attempts, Carl thoughtlessly marginalizes Katherine’s feelings while he asexually fawns over his harem of horny female admirers. He seems to be really good at keeping many women hanging on him until they try to move on without any bitterness when he does. For no reason at all, his hold over all the ladies in town — except his bright spark girlfriend Ambrosia — suddenly breaks and he realizes how average he actually is as a lover, player, and artist alike

Here for a hot minute, McAdams is interested in exploring the fickleness of fame for artists when the next best thing suddenly comes along and steals all the shine. That could have been so genius if he used a Ross-like figure with his ASMR voice that never gets angry, but instead rouses us out of sleep by poking fun at fame just for a while. But instead of being exploited for what it is worth, this possibility gets lost as the script aimlessly takes us on a wild goose chase through an unexpected lesbian affair, Carl dating an employee only half her age, and last and most incredibly stupid; trying to make us think that Katherine and Carl are truly destined to be together. In fact, during the last half hour, it seems like this film cannot stop raising hackles by employing too many clichés from all romantic comedies just to give Carl some undeserved realization. The provocation went further than “Somebody takes Katherine out of this city!”. Both Michaela Watkins and her character deserved better.

Everyone deserves more than Paint affords them. Potentiality belongs only to Root and Wendi McLendon-Covey who form part of a cast that was not given its dues. While Owens plays along with all things Rossian in terms of mannerisms etc., yet no one really knows who Carl truly is besides being a caricature without depth. It becomes hard, therefore, to sympathize with Carl since his ignorance is boringly repetitive and not amusing in any way whatsoever. Why hadn’t McAdams crafted Wilson’s hilarious role into anything other than this weak “relationship”? Meantime Paint would not seem like such an awful paint-by-numbers set.


Paint wants very much to be like a warm-hearted quirky rom-com like Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure or Palm Springs’ passion projects that were turned into films written/directed/starring their creators (the latter, by the way, is a great movie). Instead, McAdams builds his story around a Bob Ross parody and then gives us a dull romantic comedy about clueless Nargle and his ex-wife Katherine. Somehow he makes this 96-minute “comedy” feel like it goes on for hours while we watch a washed-up local celebrity Nargle flounder through life, having taken all of its opportunities for granted. That was less fun than watching KCET’s pledge drive.

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