Arguably one of the most imaginative road trip/romance/black comedy/fantasy tales to come out in recent years, Wristcutters: A Love Story is based on a short story from the brilliant Israeli writer Etgar Keret. The ever-adorable Patrick Fugit stars as Zia, a twentysomething Lonely Guy who slits his wrists after his girlfriend Desiree (Leslie Bibb) leaves him and promptly discovers that life after suicide is just a duller, more depressing version of real life- no stars, no smiles, no fun.
He gets a job at Kamikaze Pizza and mostly just hangs around with Russian musician Eugene (Shea Whigham), but when a mutual friend tells him Desiree killed herself shortly after Zia, he convinces Eugene to take a meandering road trip to find her. Along the way they pick up hitchhiker and newcomer Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon), who's looking for the People In Charge (PIC) because she claims she "got there by mistake".
Director/screenwriter Goran Dukic is able to effortlessly fuse a range of genres and themes into an ultimately enjoyable and emotionally effective film, bringing together the elements of surreal comedy and unflappable sadness that characterize Keret's writings. The dialogue is oddly realistic, containing an undercurrent of quiet dark humor and some truly affecting moments. Both visually and narratively, Wristcutters is incredibly imaginative, offering a world whose many small eccentricities and impossibilities make it just different enough from our own, and whose characters are strange but lovable, always introduced by a flashback of their own suicide. Though its tone tends to remain more to the blackly comedic side, it never makes light of suicide itself, with many of the characters still dealing with their past issues or claiming a new appreciation for what they left behind.
The cast is absolutely perfect. It helps that I'm a little enamored of Patrick Fugit, but he really is excellent as the lovelorn Zia, who's become so jaded since his death and sort of rediscovers himself through his relationship with Mikal. I usually find Shannyn Sossamon obnoxious and flat, but here she shines as the outspoken and determined Mikal, struggling in a world populated by assholes. Even though we don't learn much about her past, she feels very much like a fully-realized person that one could meet in real life. As the uncouth rock star Eugene, Shea Whigham is a strangely likable stand-in for Eugene Hütz, the lead singer of Gogol Bordello, the gypsy-punk band that provides some of the film's soundtrack. I do wonder, however, why Hütz didn't take the role himself since he is also an actor. Scheduling conflicts, I guess?
Wristcutters has everything, really. The lovely, at-times whimsical instrumental score from Bobby Johnson combined with Gogol Bordello's badass punk perfectly complements the disparate elements of comedy, drama, romance, and fantasy at play. Capitalizing on the road-trip format, much of the story is composed of unexplained or beautiful small moments during their travels, and of course much of it also focuses on the effects the characters have on one another in terms of their development and outlook. It's a wonderful film all around with a very sweet, understated love story, and one of the few times I've been so grateful that an adaptation has changed the ending from the source material. Plus, there are appearances from John Hawkes, Jake Busey, Will Arnett, and, most awesomely, Tom Waits!
"Kneller and the Happy Campers"- Bobby Johnson
"Through the Roof 'n' Underground"- Gogol Bordello
"Love Will Tear Us Apart"- Joy Division
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