Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Film: Wristcutters: A Love Story

Wristcutters: A Love Story
directed by Goran Dukic

Suicide, lost love, miles of wasteland, another depressed white male—uh oh, looks like someone has another introspective take on life, love, and what indie songs to put into their crap indie film. If there is something Wristcutters does right, it’s proving your initial judgement wrong. While the film isn’t as clever as it thinks, it gets enough credibility for sidestepping everything its synopsis would have you imagine it to be. Surprisingly, Wristcutters is one of the funniest, light-hearted, and interesting films that has come out this Fall. But, sadly, it is not one of the best.

By the time Wristcutters ended, I was a bit confused about which film I should write about: the philosophical drama on love and death or the odd dark-comedy with a colorful cast. We’ll start with the good film, as that’s the one you will leave remembering. Zia is a recent suicide victim that finds himself in an afterlife that is pretty much like his previous life except a lot worse. The water is brown, cheap apartments are even grosser, and everyone in the bar sits alone in sorrow. Zia is determined to find his ex-girlfriend who committed suicide not long after him, but he has no clue as to where she could be. Do I smell road trip?

There are plenty of laughs during the first hour of Wristcutters: Austrians complaining about the lack of cottage cheese in the fridge, a black hole under the passenger seat of a beat-up Volvo that sucks endless pairs of Ray Bans into its endless void, and a guest appearance from Will Arnett (of Arrested Development fame/cancellation) all bring genuine laughs. The whole goofy adventure feels very Neil Gaiman, so if you are, indeed, a fan of the famous British novelist then go seek out this film.

While there have been a couple films that have merged dramas that question the metaphysical with gag comedy (I Heart Huckabees comes to mind), Wristcutters isn’t part of the gang. Its characters are all thin as paper feeling like nothing more than conduits of either a funny accent or the next gag. In fact, the scenes that rely solely on emotional connection between the characters are painful with their lack of foundation. Wristcutters’s hit-and-miss cast really doesn’t help the drama, either. While Patrick Fugit and Shannyn Sossamon have each given a powerful performance earlier in the decade, they prove to be nothing but lifeless caricatures throughout these 90 minutes. Everyone else is fantastic, on the other hand, with Shea Whigam, who once gave a strong dramatic performance in 2003’s fantastic All the Real Girls, supplies the film’s biggest laughs and Tom Waits (indie cred +5!) works his magic in a film that is not awful (a.k.a. Domino).

While you expect Wristcutter’s misguided narrative to mar the laughs held within, for better or worse, these two layers feel so disconnected that you can enjoy one without the other. Everything about the film screams “5 p.m. USA/Comedy Central movie that will be played to death”, but you won’t necessarily regret seeing it in theatres now. If Knocked Up and Superbad raised the bar for good comedies in 2007, Wristcutters raises the bar for bad ones.