Owen Wilson's performance in "Paint" is charmingly offbeat and genuinely captivating.
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Carl Nargle (Owen Wilson) is the man of his time. He owns the No. 1 show painting instructional show at the PBS station in Burlington, Vermont, a tricked-out van, a sweet perm and a legion of loyal fans. The only problem is Carl’s time was 20 years ago and he now finds himself in a world that’s evolved and moved beyond him.
Carl is a beloved figure at the Burlington station, but there's an issue. The ratings have bottomed out, and the station finds itself fledgling to stay afloat. He's adored by all the female staffers at the station except for Katherine (Michaela Watkins). Also not helping matters is Carl's inability to accept the changes around him. This modern world he sees before him is one that he doesn't yet realize includes him, but this quickly becomes apparent when the station brings Ambrosia (Ciara Reneé) in to host a rival painting show in hopes of pulling in a younger audience and causes the ratings to increase.
We find out that Carl and Katherine once had a relationship, but both made mistakes and the relationship ended. Kathrine has tried to move on, but Carl's life hit the brakes, and he's never been able to let go of the loss. Not only that, but she also starts to spend some special time with Ambrosia, which makes Carl feel even more isolated from the world he has created.
When the audience shifts to Ambrosia's new style, station director Tony (Stephen Root) offers Carl a unique opportunity to teach his craft outside of the studio at the local university while running 22 years of reruns of his show. When the station learns they can't rerun the show due to Carl smoking a pipe in each episode due to a new PBS standard, it's just another hit the artist must take.
Carl must face truths buried deep for a long time and realize that the perfection he's been striving for in his art has been standing in front of him the entire time. A quick meeting with the director of the Burlington Museum of Art inspires him to look inside and he makes one final attempt to create the masterwork that will define him and his life forever.
Will Carl be able to paint himself a bright new world, or will he continue living in the shadow of Mt. Mansfield, the painting he's created daily for the past several years?
I really enjoyed this film. Wilson's performance of Carl was nuanced and subtle, achieving just the right balance of satire and drama. For a comedy, it's a heavy film that pulls on the heartstrings and will leave viewers questioning the choices they've made in their own lives.
Watkins and Reneé are excellent, as well as most of the supporting cast. There were so many moments I found myself laughing at the smallest things, but the cast were able to hit every comedic beat. Root felt off occasionally, but he's still brilliant enough in most of his scenes to make up for those shortcomings.
"Paint" is a cautionary tale about dealing with lost love and the pursuit of perfection, and it wasn't what I was expecting. Carl is obviously inspired by the legendary Bob Ross, so I thought the film would be almost a meditative look at how art can heal and nothing more. While that is core to the film, it went beyond that and gave it another dimension that made the movie something special.
The film also shows a person beloved by many but struggles to accept himself for who he is – something I think many people will relate to. Carl brings joy to so many people, but he wants to be taken seriously as an artist; hence, the reason he's tried to paint the perfect version of Mount Mansfield. He views it as his only ticket to into the Burlington Museum of Art.
Instead of following the paint-by-numbers story, writer/director Brit McAdams crafts a sweet, quirky story that will have you rooting for Carl while lamenting your own life choices. You'll see more of yourself in Carl than you care to.
Owen Wilson's performance in "Paint" is charmingly offbeat and genuinely captivating. This wonderfully quirky film delves into the complex theme of reconciling with past decisions, ultimately taking viewers on a touching journey.