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5 reviews, 10 user ratings

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Wristcutters: A Love Story
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by Eugene Novikov

"A suicide comedy, I guess."
3 stars

On one hand, WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY has what seems like a genuinely difficult premise. A black comedy about suicide? I'll believe it when I see it. Then again, the movie pulls its punch in a major way, and not just because its distributer appended that candy-ass (if accurate) "Love Story" subtitle to what had been an awesomely blunt moniker: it's not about suicide, not really. It's about love, and life, and all that considerably less controversial stuff. So this isn't quite the Sundance rebel that was widely advertised (or is this what passes for rebellion at Sundance nowadays?). But strip away the indie hype, and what you'll find is a quirky little charmer -- intensely original, if also a bit confused and self-absorbed. Maybe that subtitle was a good move after all. "Edgy" marketing wouldn't have done this gentle, nave movie any favors.

You might say that Wristcutters never lives down its beautifully evocative opening minutes. In an elegant time-lapse, we see Zia (Patrick Fugit), a long-haired, good-looking twentysomething, meticulously clean his room, then stand in front of his bathroom mirror and -- well, what do you think? His dead body sprawls on the floor, but reassuringly we hear his voiceover. The next time we see him is in the afterlife, though the afterlife Wristcutters envisions isn't what anyone bargained for.

Technically, I guess, it's a sort of purgatory for suicide cases, though it's unclear whether their presence there is temporary -- my first association was Defending Your Life, but there the inhabitants knew what was coming: a trial, then either on to heaven or back to earth. No such luck here, and nor do the newly dead get to gorge on consequence-free food or stay at posh hotels; instead, this afterlife seems to precisely split the difference between heaven and hell. Everything's the same as the world we know, "just a little worse" -- no one smiles, everything seems on the verge of breaking, and the scenery is relentlessly bleak. Zia's roommate keeps yelling at him for eating all the cottage cheese.

This is a pretty brilliant concept, and Wristcutters is surprisingly committed to it. Making all of the characters walk around with their suicide wounds plainly visible may have been a bridge too far, giving this world a more absurdist air than I think the film intends, but the attention to detail is impressive, and touches like the "Hunger Strike Diner" are just about perfect. And to the extent the movie is about suicide, it's here: this is the world these people thought they were living in when they pulled the trigger or sliced with the blade. In that sense, as Zia says, this really is the "perfect punishment."

Zia soon learns that his girlfriend, who broke his heart in some unspecified way, offed herself shortly after his death and that he might be able to find her. So he and his friend Eugene (Shea Whigham) go looking, picking up a charming and beautiful free-spirit named Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon), who is determined to find the People In Charge because she's convinced that there's been some kind of mistake -- she didn't kill herself, she insists; she just OD-ed.

Wristcutters basically becomes a road movie at this point, and it started to lose me -- some of the late-film twists and quirks seemed too arbitrary and too cute. Writer-director Goran Dukic tries some heady stuff -- the appearance of Will Arnett as a bizarre cultist intent on staging a second mass suicide is nothing if not ambitious -- but apparently doesn't have much confidence in his material, since his movie spends a lot of time flailing around. The resolution seemed random, though I'll admit that Dukic finds the perfect final shot; I saw it coming and all but yelled at the screen to cut to black.

There are problems here, then, but they're of the good-natured variety -- the flaws of a smart film that aims high. Wristcutters isn't quite as good or quite as daring as the festival buzz insisted, but it's certainly a promising feature debut.

(Reprinted from Filmblather.com)

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13563&reviewer=419
originally posted: 11/09/07 03:52:44
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2006 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2006 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Lake County Film Festival For more in the 2008 Lake County Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/12/10 ES Enjoyable 4 stars
4/28/09 Natalie This film is the best film ive seen in a while, it left all of us talking about it for days 5 stars
4/23/08 damalc very good except for the odd messiah scene 3 stars
12/13/07 William Goss Deadpan charms of afterlife dramedy soon wear thin. 3 stars
12/08/07 Keystra Williams Starts out well, and careens off-track. Meh. 1 stars
10/20/06 dudu best US film i've seen in years 5 stars
10/19/06 Jerry Barmore beautifully paced, extremely well written, very believable characters. Excellent film. 5 stars
5/20/06 Dr V saw it at Sarasota Film Fest. near flawless, only it's title will keep people away. 5 stars
1/31/06 sam best film of sundance 06 5 stars
1/28/06 xtc wastes its concept on cheap "indie" quirks. The dregs of the festival. 1 stars
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  19-Oct-2007 (R)
  DVD: 25-Mar-2008



Directed by
  Goran Dukic

Written by
  Goran Dukic

  Patrick Fugit
  Shannyn Sossamon
  Tom Waits
  Will Arnett
  Leslie Bibb
  Jake Busey

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