MOVIE REVIEW: “Wristcutters” a quirky, unexpectedly heartwarming, totally disarming, and absolutely BRILLIANT charmer





For those who are curious about life after death, and especially for those who wonder what happens when they kill themselves, Wristcutters: A Love Story offers up an unusual side trip.

The movie is the story of Zia (Fugit), a twentysomething young man from New Jersey who kills himself (the suicide opens the movie) over something that happened between he and his girlfriend (it’s never actually revealed what happened, but it’s implied that he may have found out she was cheating on him).

Zia informs us via voiceover that life after death isn’t much different from regular life, except that it might even be worse. Since offing himself, he’s found a job at Kamikaze Pizza, he lives with a fussy Austrian roommate (Benrubi), and spends his off time hanging out at a local bar, where he’s befriended by Eugene (Wigham), a Russian immigrant whose entire family has offed themselves at one time or another, and as such, once again live all together in the afterlife.

When Zia finds out from another suicide from his neighborhood that his ex-girlfriend he offed himself over, Desiree (Bipp), offed herself about a month after Zia’s funeral, he and Eugene set off to find her. Along the way they’re joined by Mikal (Sossamon), who they find hitchhiking on the side of the road. It seems she doesn’t believe she belongs here, because she killed herself accidentally, and is now looking for the People In Charge so that she can set things right.

As they drive without aim hoping to find Desiree, one night, while driving without headlights (which have been malfunctioning the entire trip), they almost run over Kneller, who is just lying in the middle of the road. Kneller, a strange but intriguing man, takes them back to his campsite, where they discover that the people staying with Kneller perform small personal miracles, including a mute girl who can throat sing, and a man who can float in the air.

When a camper returns with the news that Messiah, the man who runs another camp not too far away, has convinced Kneller’s runaway dog to stay with him, Kneller, Zia, and Mikal head to Messiah’s camp, hoping to bring the dog back, and where they find Messiah preparing to perform the biggest miracle of all – separating his body and soul into two distinct beings. And at his side is Desiree, who is assisting him in his planned miracle. Zia sadly discovers she didn’t kill herself over losing him, but because she wanted to follow Messiah to this world after he killed himself in the real world.

But things don’t work quite the same way in this netherworld reserved for suicides, and Zia’s afterlife is about to take an unexpected turn…

The debut feature from director Dukic, and based on the short story Kneller’s Happy Campers by author Etgar Keret, Wristcutters is a darkly comic look at what happens in a world where all the inhabitants are there by the choice of their suicide in the real world, and how life in the afterlife can still somehow be a real life (confusing, but you’ll get it when you see the movie).

With the three leads and Tom Waits turning in absolutely wonderful performances – Waits is particularly excellent in his small but important role – you’ll find yourself swept away into their somewhat bizarre existance, and wondering if Zia is right when he says that this life is even worse than what he left behind. Fugit is one of today’s breed of rising young actors, along with a few others like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jamie Bell, and Michael Angarano, who have the ability to grab a character and envelop themselves totally in it, and his quirky and poignant portrayal of Zia will wrap itself around your heart. The movie is hilariously funny in the most unexpected places, and because of it, it doesn’t seem at all like you’ve spent a whole 95 minutes watching the movie…you become so fascinated with these quirky people that you almost wish it wasn’t over yet when it finishes.

The movie also features something else that is rare for a dark comedy – a HAPPY ending. Like 2006’s dark but still funny One Last Thing…, the twist at the end is unexpected (and yet still strangely expected), and the final two shots of the movie, especially if you’ve been paying attention to a particular recurring conversation throughout the movie, add a boisterous and unexpectedly happy kick to the heartstrings. Speaking for myself, it brought happy tears to my eyes.

Wristcutters is one of those quirky offbeat little films that unexpectedly works it’s way under your skin and into your psych and then refuses to let go.

Given the fact that movie has recieved almost a dozen nominations and several awards since its premiere at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, including a prestigious nomination as "The Best Film Not Playing In Your Local Theater" at the 2007 Gotham Awards, it is a CRIME that this movie took so long to find a distributor. This movie deserves to be seen by as many people as possible, and deserves a chance to become the indie hit I believe it is ultimately destined to become.

Ever since seeing director Riaan Johnson’s incredible and mesmerizing debut Brick in 2006, I have held a very high criteria for a movie in regards to earning a spot on my all time favorite movie list. Wristcutters: A Love Story EASILY passed that rigorous criteria, and now ranks with Brick, Catherine Hardwick’s Lords Of Dogtown, and Yimou Zhang’s Hero as one of my all time favorite films. I left the theater feeling completely heartwarmed, and with a great big smile on my face.

The Gods have shined on  Wristcutters and allowed it to find a distributor. It is absolutely the kind of movie that must be on your "Can’t Miss" list when it comes out…this movie is just too damn good – and too damn FUNNY – to have it remain an unjustly buried treasure…

MY SCORE: 5 (out of 5)

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