Sat 27 Sep 2008
It doesn’t matter where you’re going, I’ll take you there.
Yet again, I was blindsided by a film. It doesn’t happen too often but when it does, I’m reminded how powerful the medium of film can be and why I love it so much.
So let me set the stage, it’s Saturday night … It’s been a long week of appointments and all the stuff life can throw at you, I’m home alone and I’ve been sitting on the “Wristcutters: A Love Story” DVD for over a month – just never feeling in the mood or having the time to throw it in the player and sit down to watch it.
Having finally found that feeling wherein the world around me drops away and I feel like I can actually devote myself to enjoying a few hours on the couch with a DVD, I decide to give this festival darling a try … and I’m so glad I did.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of melancholy and quirky indies. Whether it’s partially the idea that the mainstream hasn’t caught on yet, my own peccadilloes or a combination of the two, when I find a lesser known gem, it renews a balance in myself that too often is lost by the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Work, friends, errands, chores, bills, family – they all get in the way of staying connected with myself and it takes a bit of a jolt to push me back towards feeling centered (no matter uncentered that actually is).
In “Wristcutters: A Love Story”, writer/director Goran Dukic (basing the screenplay on a book by Etgar Keret) delivers a tale that quite literally is on another plane of existence.
The story begins with Zia (Patrick Fugit) slitting his wrists, wracked with feelings of loss over breaking up with the love of his life, Desiree (Leslie Bibb). Rather than being an ending, his act actually sends him to a world populated only by other suicides. From there, the film takes us on a road trip with Zia, his new best friend, Eugene (Shea Whigham), and a hitchhiker on a quest of her own (Shannyn Sossamon). They meet up with a mysterious stranger (Tom Waits) and through a series of bizarre events (which include a cameo by Will Arnett), the layers to this strange world are revealed.
The plot of it all really isn’t too important – not to say it isn’t interesting and a good conversation piece. However, what made “Wristcutters” stand out for me was Dukic’s ability to maintain a wonderful, somber tone and atmosphere to the entire film. It felt otherworldly and at the same time, familiar. The events and people in the world were off by small degrees, giving a sense of something perhaps best described as deja vu – where the similarities seem to be like the entire film was a dream I had and when the credits roll, it’s time to wake up.
Fugit, never being an actor I’ve particularly found amazing, does a very nice job here. His character is a mixed bag of emotions and expectations, living in the past and thinking he can still make his fantasy ideal of what happiness should be come to life … even once he’s crossed over. Sossamon has a habit of finding her way into smaller films and injecting it with a fresh sense of energy and that’s exactly the case with her character this time around.
Making up the final element of the main trio, Shea Whigham is a remarkably versatile actor, who never seems to get a chance to carry a film on his own, but always manages to flesh his character out into something more than the script perhaps originally intended. While this doesn’t quite match up to his role in one of my favorite films (“All the Real Girls”), his character is vital to the success of the story and without someone of his caliber to round out and compliment the chemistry of the leads, the film would have suffered greatly.
Another wonderful element to the film is how original (albeit formulaic) it is. This purgatoryesque limbo had its own set of rules that differed from the world we supposedly all live in now. It’s always hot, people don’t smile, there are no stars at night and while people all still go about a daily routine (which includes jobs), there’s also a lack of structure to the world that enables people to explore themselves and the motives behind their suicides.
One thing for people to realize is that this truly is an independent film – if you prefer your films to come wrapped in more familiar packaging, I would recommend leaving this on the rental shelves. However, for those of you out there with an appreciation for the indie scene, “Wristcutters: A Love Story” may not make the same level of connection with you as it did myself, but it’s one of the very few American films in the last few years to set itself apart from the crowd for me and I’m going to give it a strong 4 out of 5.
A perfect score was within the film’s grasp, but as alluded to earlier, there are formulaic touches that created a conflicted set of emotions within me. On one hand, I’m a sucker and once I’ve invested myself in characters, usually do want the best for them. On the other end of the spectrum, I truly do love to wallow in cinematic misery and every nuance of the word melancholy. So, considering this wasn’t a studio film, some of the story resolutions left me feeling a bit gipped.
All that aside, this truly was one of the more personal and moving film experiences I’ve had in the last year, with perhaps only “Quiet City” leaving a more significant emotional scar of late. Indie fans should add this to their rental queue’s and if any mainstream lovers out there want to take a walk off the beaten path, this one – while thematically on the darker side – actually sticks fairly close to the general conventions one expects and assuming you are okay with the subject material, I think it’s far more accessible than this review may have led one to believe.