Wristcutters: A Love Story
No Matter Pictures
Now Showing at: Esquire Theatre.
Review by: Larry Thomas
If, on occasion, you’ve asked yourself the age-old questions “is that all there is?” or “where do we go from here?” then Wristcutters: A Love Story may be the film for you.
Although the film deals with suicide, it’s done in a meditative fashion. While not a laugh-out-loud comedy, it’s sly, and provides chuckles; the kind of film you watch with a goofy grin plastered on your face.
Zia has just broken up with his girlfriend Desiree, and in a moment of despondency decides to off himself. Once he reaches the bizarre afterlife inhabited only by suicides, Zia realizes that it’s just like real life…only worse. Everything is dirty, grungy and rundown. The cars are old and rusty. The only job he can get is in a deteriorating pizza joint. The night sky is totally black forever.
Zia bonds with Eugene, a Russian émigré who lives in cramped quarters with his entire family, all of whom committed suicide at one time or another. Eugene has a car, which comes complete with a black hole under the passenger seat. Anything dropped on the floor is sucked away into nothingness.
In the course of hanging out with Eugene, Zia discovers that his beloved Desiree killed herself as well, so he and Eugene set out on a trek through this Kafkaesque landscape in search of her.
Not only does Wristcutters: A Love Story resurrect the style and premise of the 1970s existential road movie, it is reminiscent of several old favorites…sort of a mash up of Repo Man, Easy Rider and The Wizard of OZ.
Along the road to wherever, Zia and Eugene meet up with Mikal, a fetching lass who insists she’s there by mistake and is in search of the people in charge. The three travelers encounter Kneller, a strange older man who runs a sort of commune for the locals.
If this sounds totally off the charts of reason, and completely confusing, that’s not the case. The story is quite linear and easy to follow. The cast is terrific, most of them coming from episode TV and indie flicks: Patrick Fugit as Zia; Shea Wigham as Eugene; and Shannyn Sossamon plays Mikal. Singer-songwriter-actor Tom Waits, who always lends charm, humor and quirkiness to any film in which he appears, is Kneller.
Another ethereal touch is the use of songs on the soundtrack by performers connected with suicide: Del Shannon; Screaming Lord Sutch; and the band Joy Division, whose lead singer Ian Curtis did himself in at age 24, and is currently represented in the new film, Control.
A big hit at last year’s Sundance Festival, Wristcutters: A Love Story is definitely worth theatrical exposure. It’s funny, sad, goofy, thoughtful, and extremely well made given the budget constraints. It also may give viewers some insight to the question “can it get any worse?”
Wristcutters: A Love Story is now showing at the Esquire Theatre.