‘Paint’: Not Quite Good Enough


Owen Wilson as Carl Nargle in “Paint” (2023). (Courtesy IFC Films)

By Edie Raines, Copy Editor


Brit McAdams’ latest film, “Paint,” tells the tale of a Bob Ross-esque local celebrity who doesn’t quite live up to his lovable facade off-screen. 

The Majestic Mount Mansfield

Owen Wilson plays Carl Nargle, longtime host of a painting show on PBS (the fictional Public Broadcasting Syndicate in this world) and bona fide ladies man who is hung up on his ex and coworker, Katherine (Michaela Watkins). As ratings fall, Nargle is ultimately pushed out of his TV show by the much younger Ambrosia (Ciara Renée), who is also interested in Katherine. The story plays more or less out exactly as you’d expect. Each character eventually finds love through various failed relationships, a few fights and hundreds upon hundreds of paintings of Mount Mansfield

A Cute Romance, But a Bad Comedy

“Paint” certainly has its moments. There were times I laughed, times I came close to crying and, of course, there was Wilson, so how awful could the movie really get? However, each of these moments felt disjointed, almost as if a different director had produced each shot. There were flashes of Wes Anderson-style editing, early-2000s awkward comedy and cheap jokes that might have fit better in a SNL skit. Rather than molding these elements into something unique, each influence stood alone, strung together only by the plot. The jokes were a bit dated, but the pitfall of the movie was ultimately an utter lack of comedic timing. 

McAdams was, however, able to develop some decent chemistry between Nargle and Katherine, as well as Katherine and Ambrosia, despite the large age gap between the latter two. The homosexual relationship was also not treated as a joke in and of itself, and fit naturally into the plot thanks largely to some compelling acting by Renée. Yet, whenever the audience had a moment’s breath between corny jokes to really become engaged with the romance, another seemingly pointless joke would take over and ruin an otherwise tender moment. The movie tries way too hard to be funny when it could have been decently enjoyable and amusing without any of the unsubtle jokes. 

What Could Have Been

McAdams told the LA Times that he had no interest in making the film a parody of Ross.

“I don’t think there’s any winking at the audience from the character,” she said. “No one’s ever even laughing in this movie. They’re very serious about their lives, as we all are about our hopes and the way things don’t work out.”

This was one of the few truly wonderful things about the film, besides the delightful folk soundtrack highlighting greats like Dolly Parton and John Denver

The narrative, which combines a familiar love story with the equally familiar tale of an insecure artist constantly trying to prove themselves, is perpetually at battle with itself, never successfully pulling the strings of the story together. Not to mention the absolutely surreal ending that felt entirely unnecessary. I’m glad McAdams didn’t make a Ross parody, but that might have made for a more congruent and convincing movie. It wasn’t bad. It just could have been better. 


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