January 26, 2009
Review - " Wristcutters : A Love Story " (on DVD) - By Roland Hansen
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Wristcutters: A Love Story (No Matter Pictures)
Directed by: Goran Dukic
Starring: Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon, Shea Whigham, Will Arnett,
Mikal P. Lazerey, Leslie Bibb, John Hawkes, Tom Waits
Once upon a time there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. And they
grew next to each other. And every day the straight tree would look at the
crooked tree and he would say, "You're crooked. You've always been
crooked and you'll continue to be crooked. But look at me! Look at me!" said
the straight tree. He said, "I'm tall and I'm straight." And then one day the
lumberjacks came into the forest and looked around, and the manager in
charge said, "Cut all the straight trees." And that crooked tree is still there to
this day, growing strong and growing strange.
"Wristcutters: A Love Story" is a witty tale of life after suicide.
In this engaging indie comedy, a drab afterlife is reserved for those who
commit suicide. Young Zia (Patrick Fugit) kills himself after being jilted in
love, only to discover that his existence in death is surprisingly like life "but a
little bit worse." Stuck serving greasy food at Kamikaze Pizza, saddled with a
complaining roommate, he occupies a sort of purgatory of futility and
purposelessness. Zia’s suicide happens within the timeframe of the opening
credits, so we jump right into the trippy purgatory afterlife really fast. He ends
up in what’s basically an alternate version of life in a lackluster reality where
people don’t smile, and flat beer is for breakfast.
When he learns that the girlfriend, Desiree (Leslie Bibb), he snuffed himself over also has arrived, he and nihilistic
Russian rocker Eugene (Shea Whigham) then take off in Eugene’s piece or crap car looking for her. Along the way we find
out that Eugene’s car has no working headlights, and there’s a black hole under the passenger seat. Yep a Black Hole!!!
Along the way, they meet up with “smoking hot” Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon), a hitchhiker looking for the "PIC" - (People in
Charge.) Mikal provides a change of pace as she delivers the only uplifting performance along the journey. She is
convinced she is here only because someone has made a mistake. Perhaps someone has, but we certainly haven't. This
delightful piece of whimsy uses its simple premise effectively to gain and keep our attention and to remind us simply that,
while this world appears ordinary, it is still unbounded by reality. Their journey takes them through an absurd purgatory
where they learn that being dead doesn’t mean you have to stop living.
Writer/director Goran Dukic sets a mischievous course in adapting Israeli writer Etgar Keret's novella, notably rejecting
fancy film palettes in favor of using the crummy settings of everyday life. Trash litters streets, apartments sport thick coats
of sloppy paint, and clothes hang slack. Dukic makes the most of very little, allowing power stations, truck stops and dry
scrub brush to serve as his squalid landscape of eternal ennui.
Wristcutters is a great romantic tale of innocent love beyond the veil of death, and how love can give us a second chance
at life. I really enjoyed the performances in this film. I sure hope to see more from this cast, I loved to see John Hawkes,
and Shea Whigham practically stole the film. Shannyn Sossamon was stunningly hot as Mikal, and Patrick Fugit really
stood out as a seasoned talent. I can see him getting some bigger roles in the future. The film is a unique slice of death
that has a great soundtrack and a original backdrop.
"Wristcutters: A Love Story" is an ambitious and
imaginative film, which is unusual for one with
such a small budget. That said, this is by far the
movie's biggest strength. When Wristcutters works
best, it is because of its uniqueness. Although
there are numerous cinematic depictions of the
afterlife (three of my modern favorites are
Beetlejuice, Heaven Can Wait, and Defending
Your Life) I don't think I have ever seen one so
underwhelming. This "hell" for those who kill
themselves isn't fiery or torturous or even
incredibly bleak. This is just dull. Very, very dull.
And that, strangely enough, is funny.
Wristcutters is a strange and quirky film growing
strong and crooked. I highly recommend it!