Owen Wilson as “Carl Nargle” in the comedy film, PAINT, an IFC Films release. Photo courtesy of IFC Films.

Paint is a fantastic, fun, over the top film about Carl Nargle (Own Wilson), a public television personality who teaches viewers how to paint landscapes with his soft voice and big hair. Remind you of anyone?

The biggest fear for 11-year-old me was the TV being shut off after “General Hospital” was over.

As soon as the end credits rolled, each click of the TV dial moved us one step closer to mom telling us to do homework. But then… a savior would appear. At first, you’d joke about Bob Ross’s hair or the way he spoke. He was so quiet and earnest, but every stroke was so magical that eventually you’d be completely drawn in. Brown dashes became soaring oak trees. Splatters of green, mighty mountain chains. You’d lose track of time as he took you someplace you’d never been. Suddenly, the show would end, snapping you out of your trance. You realize how loud the rest of the world was and immediately long to be wherever he’d taken you.

Remembering it years later, I couldn’t help but marvel at how pure Bob Ross seemed and I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if he didn’t always use the power he had over people like us for good…

Brit McAdams, writer/director

This is a great summary of the film… Bob Ross if he wasn’t a good person is a great way to summarize Carl Nargle. That’s not to say that he is evil… he isn’t… he’s self-absorbed and uses the goodwill of others for his own benefit. He’s everything that you stereotypically expect someone to become when they go from being a nobody to experiencing a taste of power and fame. Yet, despite his many flaws, due to McAdams amazing writing and Wilson’s brilliant performance, you still feel for Carl, you still love him, and you still want to succeed. While the calm exterior and loveable personality may not be all that he is, you still want to let the peace that he presents on screen to flow over you and help you find your inner peace.

Off screen, however, Nargle is unlikeable in so many ways and he makes so many mistakes. Yet somehow, still, you want him to succeed. Succeed, but grow, you want him to become more than he is and find the peace that he shows you on screen.

My favorite line from Death Cab for Cutie’s song, “What Sarah Said” is, “Love is watching someone die. So, who’s gonna watch you die?” If we were able to prioritize our lives through the lens of those words, what would we end up valuing? That’s the question Paint’s protagonist Carl Nargle eventually asks himself as he looks to define his life as an artist and as a man.

During the decades Carl has hosted the highest-rated painting show in the history of Vermont Public Broadcasting, he’s never had a reason to be anything other than a star. His success defines him and all of his relationships — I can’t imagine who I’d be if I spent my entire adult life being treated like I had everything figured out.

Brit McAdams, writer/director

Carl is the star and everyone around them makes their lives about fulfilling Carl’s life. Those actions just further fuel his ego. So, as viewing habits shift over the decades, a new painter is brought in that appeals to a broader audience and Carl finds himself falling out of favour, not just with his viewers, but also with those he has surrounded himself with. He no longer has an army of followers, the new painter, Ambrosia (Ciara Renée), breaks the spell that Carl holds over his followers, replacing him in their lives. This includes Carl’s ex, for whom he still pines, Katerine (Michaela Wakins), which does not sit well with Carl.

As much as the film is about our entertainment, it is a story of self discovery, it is about figuring out who you are, where you belong, and if you fit in to the world around you. That’s what I saw. I saw a movie where I laughed, where I was entertained, and where I saw that it is never too late to start over and figure out who you are. I went into the film expecting a silly take on the life of Bob Ross and came out the other side realizing that Paint is a profound and magical film with so many layers sitting just below the surface. It is not the story of a superficial star who uses those around him for his own gain. It is the story of someone who finds themself unhappy with who they are. An unhappiness that feels like it is pushed upon them by others, but, after a while, that unhappiness is seen for what it is… self-induced. The film is a reminder that anyone can change and that what we see doesn’t always tell the entire story.

Carl spends every day trying to paint the perfect picture of Vermont’s tallest peak, Mt. Mansfield. Worrying about being seen as a real artist and the legacy that he’ll leave prevents him from realizing what he already has. Eventually, we all need to learn that if you’re always trying to paint the perfect picture, you’re going to miss the best parts of life You’re going to miss being with wonderful, flawed people, or find reasons to not like them — or yourself. If you can’t embrace and love the imperfect, then you’re going to waste your life chasing something that doesn’t exist. That what the film is about to me. That and fondue jokes. Some really good fondue joke

Brit McAdams, writer/director

Paint isn’t just a film that you want to see… Paint is a film that you need to see. It is a film that I enjoyed immensely while I watched it, but it is a film that I enjoyed even more in retrospect, and it is a film that I very much look forward to watching again. McAdams wrote an amazing script, brought together a brilliant cast, and directed the hell out of them while filming. He deserves a lot of recognition for putting this one together.

Paint was released in theatres on April 7.


Movie title: Paint

Movie description: In PAINT, Owen Wilson portrays Carl Nargle, Vermont’s #1 public television painter who is convinced he has it all: a signature perm, custom van, and fans hanging on his every stroke… until a younger, better artist steals everything (and everyone) Carl loves.

Date published: 2023-04-07

Director(s): Brit McAdams

Actor(s): Owen Wilson, Michaela Watkins, Ciara Renée, Stephen Root, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Lucy Freyer, Lusia Strus

Genre: Comedy

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