Wristcutters: A Love Story

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 01/29/06 09:26:35

"The life-affirming feel-good suicide comedy of the year!"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENED AT THE 2006 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: Ah yes, yet another of those "guy commits suicide and spends the next several weeks roaming across a purgatorical landscape in an effort to track down his ex-girlfriend -- who has also committed suicide" stories. How many times do we have to hear the exact same story??

As the movie opens, our main character, Zia (Patrick Fugit), gives his bedroom a good thorough cleaning before heading into the bathroom and slitting his wrists wide open. He awakens in a world that looks and sounds a whole lot like "the real world," only it's populated solely by suicide victims and there's a grim monochrome feel to every landscape.

Life in Suicidesville is a whole lot like life in the normal world: dead-end jobs, miserable roommates, and a whole lot of bureaucratic bullshit to contend with ... but when Zia discovers that his ex-girlfriend (indeed, the very reason he "offed" himself) has also taken her own life, he hits the road with his only friend (a colorfully laid-back Russian dude called Eugene) and sets out to find the gal. Along the way Zia and Gene pick up a confused cutie named Mikal, who claims to that her presence in purgatory is an accident because she did not kill herself, and the trio gets into a series of scrapes, side-trips, and mini-adventures before they end up at a kooky commune run by a guy called Knepper.

This Wizard of Oz meets What Dreams May Come by way of, oh I dunno, something post-apocalyptic and snarky comes with a few ground rules:

1. No smiling. It's literally impossible.

2. If you drop anything under the passenger seat of your car, it vanishes into some kind of black hole vortex thing.

3. Best not to get too depressed and, y'know, kill yourself again, because if this limbo-land is about 65% more depressing than "real life," then just imagine what the next level down must feel like!

Based on Etgar Kreet's short story Knepper's Happy Campers and boasting an enjoyably off-kilter sense of humor, Goran Dukic's Wristcutters isn't precisely like any "road movie" you've seen before. If the premise sounds like a dour and depressing concept, it only takes about 15 minutes of running time before you realize that that's simply not the case. This is not a movie that celebrates the act of suicide. It's actually a story about how important it is to embrace what you have while you're alive, because once it's all over, well, who the hell knows where you'll be?

Wristcutters is a strangely amusing and oddly enjoyable little indie, albeit one that really does seem to run out of some steam as Act III rolls on. The cast is pretty terrific throughout, with Mr. Fugit delivering a solid anchor in the middle of the action. Shea Whigham, as the irreverent yet loyal Eugene, might just be the movie's biggest standout, while the often underused Shannyn Sossamon offers a great turn as a free-spirited girl trapped in a world that, frankly, does not embrace free-spiritedness. The supporting cast features memorable turns from the likes of Tom Waits, Leslie Bibb, Abraham Benrubi, Jake Busey, and the always hilarious Will Arnett as a self-appointed deity.

While certainly not for all tastes (I know a few critics who just hated the movie), "Wristcutters" represents a entertainingly acidic spin on the whole "road movie" conceit, and it does so with a clever concept, a few truly funny moments, a colorful series of stops along the way, and a worthwhile message that's not overbaked or excessively preachy.

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