Combustible Celluloid
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With: Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon, Shea Whigham, Tom Waits, Will Arnett, Leslie Bibb, John Hawkes
Written by: Goran Dukic, based on a short story by Etgar Keret
Directed by: Goran Dukic
MPAA Rating: R for language and disturbing content involving suicide
Running Time: 88
Date: 01/24/2006

Wristcutters: A Love Story (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Slice of Life

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Distributors stayed away from Wristcutters: A Love Story for more than a year, apparently terrified of the film's content. But after the initial scene of suicide, it turns into an old-fashioned, on-the-road romantic comedy, reminiscent of It Happened One Night and The Sure Thing. Apparently, after killing oneself, one ends up in a place not unlike the earth, but just a little grimmer and a little more depressing. People can't smile, and litter dots the entire landscape. The light is a little brighter and higher contrast in this world, as if it were baked and dried out.

Zia (Patrick Fugit) arrives, gets an annoying roommate and lands a job in a pizza parlor that looks like someone's garage. He meets Eugene (Shea Whigham) who lives, oddly enough, with his entire family. They spend a lot of time drinking until Zia learns that his ex-girlfriend Desiree (Leslie Bibb) has also arrived. So he and Eugene hit the road in search of her. It's not long before they pick up the requisite cute hitchhiker, Mikal (the delightful Shannyn Sossamon), and we wait until Zia realizes that his true love sits right there beside him. Until then, Wristcutters has a unique kind of freedom; it's a world in which mortality means a little less and, perhaps because everything is so depressing, it forces humans to search for the silver lining. For one thing, Zia can up and leave his dreadful pizza job with no repercussions. If he loses that job, who cares?

Soon, however, the film begins developing rules. Our travelers find a camp in which pilgrims have gathered to perform minor miracles, such as levitating or causing a lit match to fly up in the air. They also discover a self-appointed messiah (Will Arnett), who intends to separate his soul from his body and return to tell about it. All the things we imagined about this strange place begin to congeal, along with the romantic subplot, and they're inevitably disappointing. Fortunately, director Goran Dukic, who adapted the script from Etgar Keret's short story, keeps things simple and funny. The same tone pervades throughout, and in the back of the film is the happy doubt that Dukic doesn't pay much credence to rules.

DVD Details: Lionsgate's DVD has all the makings of a keeper: a commentary track (Dukic, Fugit and others), deleted scenes, Fugit's beautiful on-set photos, featurettes, and trailers.

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