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United States, 2006
Directed By: Goran Dukic
Written By: Goran Dukic (screenplay), Etgar Keret (original story)
Starring: Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon, Will Arnett, Tom Waits
Running Time: 91 minutes
Rated R for language and disturbing content involving suicide
A young man commits suicide and discovers love and second chances in this oddly predictable indie outing based on the short story Kneller’s Happy Campers. Ultimately slight, the film attempts to mine an afterlife to posit meaning in this life but succeeds only as a mildly amusing romance in a post-suicidal dystopia.
The chief amusement of the film is the number of recognizable character actors trading on their personas with a wink and a nod – the most fun being Will Arnett’s brief appearance as the Messiah (no, not the Jesus version, more the kind of cult leader you’d expect to find in such a world) playing a take on his bumbling-magician brother turn on Arrested Development; and the most notable being Tom Waits as Kneller, the titular character from the short story. Kneller doesn’t show up until the movie is two-thirds done, and it is only at this point that the plot really gets going, albeit in a muddled fashion, but understanding that the movie is based on a short story named for Kneller goes a long way in explaining why the story doesn’t really go anywhere until the main characters show up at the campground. Oh, yeah – the main character is a guy named Zia who cuts his wrists because of pining for his girlfriend Desiree (no subtlety in those names!) and who goes off in search of Desiree when he discovers she, too, committed suicide – only to meet Mikal along the way, whom, of course, he ultimately falls in love with.
The afterlife milieu seems more like an afterthought, with a lot of unanswered questions (such as what Kneller is up to, and why the People In Charge allow the Messiah to do what he does), but the world of Wristcutters is basically this life seen through the emo eye.Wristcutters is at heart a conventional indie romance that might be worth an evening at the movies – or better – a DVD rental, but certainly doesn’t plow new ground to speak of. Tech qualities are decent, with a occasionally annoying cinematic choice of blue hue to convey that “don’t forget, we’re all dead here!” and the usual visual shortcomings of indie film, but by and large technical deficiencies don’t encroach on the viewing experience (unfortunately, neither do they enhance it).