Sporting a fuzzy perm and speaking softly while painting an evergreen tree, Owen Wilson has gone “full-on Bob Ross mode,” writes Variety’s Julia MacCary. Based on the trailer, his new movie appears to be inspired, at least in part, by the legendary TV painter.
In Paint, written and directed by Brit McAdams, Wilson plays a gentle, nature-loving artist named Carl Nargle. Nargle has helmed Vermont’s top painting show for nearly three decades—until another artist steals the spotlight.
In 2010, the Paint screenplay made the Black List, an annual ranking by industry insiders of great scripts that haven’t been produced. Now, it’s finally getting its due, with a cast that includes Wendi McLendon-Covey, Lusia Strus, Michaela Watkins, Stephen Root and Lucy Freyer.
The trailer, released last week, shows Nargle captivating fans with his show, which plays everywhere from bars to retirement homes. “There’s nothing like having the one you hold dearest nearest when the world turns cold,” Nargle says in a voiceover. “Thanks for going to a special place with me.”
His dreamy world comes crashing down when a younger painter enters the arena with a new show called “Paint With Ambrosia.” Ambrosia, played by Ciara Renée, “takes paint to a whole new place,” per the trailer.
Nargle tries to come to terms with the newfound competition. “You’re entitled to your favorite TV show,” he says in the trailer. “It’s what makes this country great.” In another scene, he splatters paint on the wall in frustration.
The trailer doesn’t reference Ross, and the film’s events didn’t happen in his life. Still, “the late artist certainly lives on in Wilson’s Paint performance,” writes the Los Angeles Times’ Alexandra Del Rosario. The real-life Ross became a household name through the success of his public television series, “The Joy of Painting.” The show, which ran from 1983 to 1994, taught viewers how to replicate Ross’ signature wet-on-wet oil painting technique.
Painting lessons aside, viewers came to love Ross’ soothing voice and positive outlook. One of his oft-repeated catchphrases was, “We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.”
Though Ross died at age 52 in 1995, his legacy lives on to this day, with new generations watching reruns of “The Joy of Painting” on streaming platforms and buying Ross-themed merchandise—such as Chia Pets, T-shirts and slow cookers.
“Artists like Ross, great artists, are never dead to us,” said art critic Jerry Saltz to NPR’s Kat Lonsdorf in 2019. In his show, Ross “breaks down painting into its component parts … and then he adds a beautiful bit at the end. ‘You can do this, too.’ And that is one of the most powerful messages of later modern art.”