Movie Review - Wristcutters: A Love Story

By Tom Houseman

November 28, 2007

The troupe re-enacts a scene from Final Fantasy X.

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It is possible that there has never been a movie made that is more proud of itself than Wristcutters: A Love Story, which was written and directed by Goran Dukic under the guidance of the Sundance Institute. In fact, Wristcutters, which is based on a short story by Etgar Keret, is so incredibly impressed by how clever its concept is that it decides to quit while it was ahead, and does virtually no work for the rest of its 88 minute run time. While this removes the burden from the filmmaker of making a movie that is meaningful, well crafted, and in any way satisfying, it places that burden squarely on anyone who has to actually watch Wristcutters.

Zia (Patrick Fugit) decides that life is no longer worth living, and decides to kill himself by slitting his wrists. Unfortunately for him, he does not go to heaven, or even hell, but a strange purgatory that is essentially a broken down city where everyone is miserable, because everyone there has "offed" themselves. Zia endures his now more miserable existence by befriending Eugene (Gogol Bordello's Eugene Hutz), but when he finds out that his ex-girlfriend Desiree offed herself shortly after he had, he makes it his quest to find her. He and Eugene go on a road trip, along the way meeting Mikal (Shannon Sossaman), who is searching for the mysterious "people in charge", because she claims she is there by accident.


It is, in fact, an incredibly clever premise for a film, and Dukic and Keret deserve credit for their originality. Unfortunately, it seems as if Dukic decided to rest on his laurels, and puts virtually no effort into developing either the story or the characters. Wristcutters, beyond its premise, is an incredibly mundane and unoriginal road trip film, and frequently feels like third-rate Jim Jarmusch work. There are a few clever elements in the film derived from its premise, but, despite what Dukic might believe, clever is not enough to carry an entire movie. The black hole under the passenger seat in Eugene's car, into which anything that is dropped will never be recovered, is an amusing gag that is killed by being the source of about 40 jokes.

So Wristcutters is content to meander along with very little happening for much of the film. While friendships develop between the characters, it all seems rather pointless, as nothing happens for the film's first hour (although it feels more like four hours), and the characters never really grow or change. Patrick Fugit is a talented actor, as he has shown in Almost Famous and White Oleander, but he is given such a poorly developed character that there is very little for him to do. He is still as charming as ever, but that's really it. Eugene Hutz ably provides some comic relief (relief from the the intensely dull monotony) and Shannon Sossaman, as the spunky and rebellious Mikal who takes great pleasure in vandalizing signs, is gorgeous. Between looking at her and listening to Hutz, Wristcutters is almost bearable.

The Sundance Institute's Down in the Valley was a commentary on the Western genre, and while it didn't succeed in its goals, it was always clearly trying very hard. Nobody could get the impression that anyone behind Wristcutters was trying, and it shows. Because Dukic never put the work into developing the characters or making it seem like the events of the film matter, he can hardly expect the audience to empathize with the characters or become in any way involved in the story. Fortunately, it seems like he never expected anything more than to elicit the occasional chuckle, and in that respect he succeeds admirably, as the chuckles do roll out from time to time, but that doesn't come close to being enough to capitalize on the film's main conceit. Although Wristcutters is very impressed with itself, after sitting through the film, you won't be.



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