March 25, 2008

Wristcutters: A Love Story


Reviewer: Erin Donovan
Rating (out of 5): ****

Like all great love stories, Wristcutters starts out with a suicide. Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous, Saved!) plays Zia, a young man so devastated from a recent break up he wakes up one morning, tidies his apartment, climbs into the tub and slashes his wrists. While drifting into death he fantasizes about his ex-girlfriend living the rest of her life in total devastation. Unfortunately, instead of being left to rest in peace, Zia wakes up in a Purgatory, a colorless wasteland inhabited by the entire population of people who ever committed suicide. Each of them is forced to live out what would have been the term of their natural life in a place described as "just like life, but crappier."

Zia then gets a minimum wage job at a pizzeria (called "Kamikaze Pizza" natch), constantly bickering with his aggressive roommate and spending most of his time staving off boredom too scared to off himself again for fear he'll wind up some place even worse. And in keeping with Croatian writer/director Goran Dukic's dark sense of humor, a disproportionate number of Russians are in residence.

When Zia hears from an old high school friend that his beloved ex recently committed suicide and is located on the other side of Purgatory he hits the road to find her. Along for the ride is his friend, Eugene (played by Shea Whigham, All the Real Girls, Tigerland) a grouchy former rock star who off'd himself onstage after a particularly bad show and Mikal, a saucy hitch-hiker (played by Shannyn Sossamon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, A Knight's Tale). Mikal is new to Purgatory and is searching for the powers that be believing her death (a heroin overdose) has been unfairly classified as a suicide. What follows is oddly enough one of the most honest depictions of a road trip ever committed to film. The landscape is boring, they get on each other's nerves, sing along silly pop songs, eat at some questionable diners and are vigilantly looking for places to go to the bathroom.

Wristcutters walks a tight line of bleakness and whimsy and, while Dukic can occasionally revel too much in Sundance-ready preciousness, the world he creates is wholly inventive and strangely believable. The film also boasts a clever soundtrack made up of suicide themes (finally, Joy Division and Artie Shaw together at last), beautifully rendered scenes of people's suicides that are both funny and poignant; a vigilante played by musician/oddball Tom Waits; Will Arnett (Blades of Glory, Brothers Solomon) practically bringing Gob (his hack magician/showman character from Arrested Development) back from the grave as a new age cult leader; a ritual sacrifice and skydiving prophets.

Despite its grim backdrop (and pat ending), Wristcutters: A Love Story's humor is surprisingly sweet and moving. And that a first-time director maintains such a reliable and credible tone throughout this horrible wonderland speaks to Dukic being a new talent to watch.

DVD features include director commentary, deleted scenes, storyboard comparisons and a making of featurette.

See also: Heathers, Dream With the Fishes, Virgin Suicides, Defending Your Life, Better Off Dead, Harold and Maude, Everything is Illuminated.

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Posted by cphillips at March 25, 2008 10:52 AM

This is one of the best movies I've seen in a while! It's also one of the funniest movies I've seen recently.

Posted by: Eksantrik Presler at March 28, 2008 9:59 AM
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