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Wristcutters: A Love Story

Aside from boasting one of the best AND most literal titles, Wristcutters: A Love Story is a genuine achievement in imagination—the art-house gem of 2007.


In the opening scene of Wristcutters, we see twentysomething Zia (Patrick Fugit) cleaning his room for what appears to be the first time in ages; it's also the last. He isn't straightening up for a guest or for the hell of it, but rather to leave a clean room behind when he slits his wrist moments later. Cut to Kamikaze Pizza, the restaurant where Zia works in what he thinks is purgatory. The only way in is by committing suicide and the only way out is if there was a mismanagement in your death circumstances and you wound up there by accident. Zia hates every second of it and is happy to find someone, in Eugene (Shea Whigham), with whom he can commiserate over beers at the local dive bar—which is really the only place to go anyway. The afterlife brightens up even further when Zia gets word that his ex-girlfriend back on Earth, Desiree (Leslie Bibb), has offed herself too and is, er, descending upon the area. So Zia and Eugene go on a road trip, through the most desolate highways and byways you've never seen, in an attempt to track down Zia's lone post-suicide regret. Along the way, they pick up a hitchhiker, Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon), who believes she's there by mistake, as well as a very twisted sort of enlightenment.


It's always impressive when actors are able to acutely grasp the most complex scripts and their subtext (i.e. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and the gang from Wristcutters is in that rare company. Fugit, who broke out in 2000's Almost Famous and has remained well under the radar since, is the oddest of protagonists—a suicide "victim," if you will, whose afterlife you're rooting for—and it's hard to think of another actor who could pull off what he does here. It's because he's somehow compellingly blasé, which is obviously no easy feat, and is clearly as lost post-life as he was during it. Sossamon (A Knight's Tale) is spunky, quirky and unpredictable in a way that'll be as attractive to viewers as it is to Zia. There really is something troubled and normal about her character that adds potential validity to Mikal's claims of not belonging in this apparent purgatory. Rising star Whigham (All the Real Girls), as the heavily Russian Eugene, rounds out the trio of roadtrippers with initial comic relief followed later by dramatic relief. Two of the more Bizarro performances we've seen in a long time come, appropriately, from a flying Tom Waits (whose record Zia puts on in the opening scene to die to) and Will Arnett, possibly as the messiah.


Who needs a huge budget when you have a huge imagination, like Wristcutters' Croatian writer/director Goran Dukic does? And what a perfect premise to have no money for, because the afterlife he dreams up is a wasteland of nothingness where traffic-less roads stretch forever, possibly as a punishment. But it's not all about visuals, or lack thereof, in this adaptation of an Israeli short story (Kneller's Happy Campers) by Etgar Keret, even though the film's most arresting scene features a deserted beach at sunset. See, Wristcutters is a genuine romantic comedy under the guise of a grim deed and ramshackle, no-budget "indie-ness": The comedy is everywhere, albeit very dry, and romance is something of a Holy Grail for which the characters are unwittingly searching. But don't write off Dukic's effort as whimsical or obtuse, because after some (literally) supernatural twists towards the end, Wristcutters turns profound—in a way that is wholly unpretentious and thus surprising for an independent film.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 1/2 stars.