Paint (2023)

Paint (2023)

Paint draws from the likeness of the beloved artist Bob Ross, but fails to be as engaging as Ross’ work.



United States of America
Comedy, Drama
Ciara Renée, Denny Dillon, Evander Duck Jr.
96 min


Watching this made me have a newfound respect for Wes Anderson, whose coveted style remains inimitable.

What it's about

Carl Nargle (Owen Wilson), a Bob Ross type who hosts an art program at a TV station, is beloved by all, but his local celebrity status is threatened when the station hires Ambrosia (Ciara Renée), a younger and hipper painter who makes Carl question his talent and legacy.

The take

Set in the quaint city of Burlington, Vermont, Paint is a cute and folksy comedy that has a Wes Anderson-esque charm to it. The characters are dressed in blocked pastels and wooly sweaters, while the protagonist Carl seems stuck in the ‘70s, and not just sartorially, too. He drives a “Vantastic” custom van, swears off cell phones, and manages to incorporate phrases like “far out” in his daily lingo. It all makes for whimsical viewing, but underneath the flair, there’s very little substance holding this picture up. It tells the tale of an aging narcissist who learns the error of his ways when a younger version of himself is hired to aid and eventually replace him. Narratively, it’s familiar and forgettable, and it becomes immediately clear that style is a crutch that the film leans on. It’s funny, at times, thanks to a very likable Wilson and a strong supporting cast (there are occasional laugh-out-loud moments too, like when Carl does the big reveal about his portrait). But ultimately, it’s just too flat to be as special as the art it admires. 

What stands out

I guess I’m confused about the Bob Ross connection. I thought that by basing the film on the beloved artist and TV host, the film would have something to say about his stature, his legacy, or even just his personal life, how he lived with so much kindness despite inevitably committing the vices humans make (Ross, like Nargle, was reportedly a ladies’ man). But nothing was said to that effect. It would seem like the filmmakers took on Bob Ross because of the peculiarity and quirkiness of his image, and from there created their own story. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it is confusing. Is the film a tribute or a parody? If it’s neither, why pick this famous person out of all the famous people? It’s these distracting questions that prevent you from fully immersing in the film’s world.


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