The title sounds promising, am I right? Intriguing and odd, appealing to fans of offbeat indie flicks and hipsters who pride themselves on thinking outside the box. I admit the name caught my attention (no, I’m not a hipster, thank you for asking), much more than the title of the short story on which it’s based: “Kneller’s Happy Campers” by Etgar Keret. But, while it is everything the title suggests, and is mildly entertaining, I can’t come up with a good reason why it’s on Entertainment Weekly’s “The 50 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen” list.
Wristcutters: A Love Story is about a young man, Zia (Patrick Fugit) who commits suicide after his girlfriend breaks up with him. Once deceased, he resides in a particular place in the afterlife reserved for people who’ve committed suicide that is just like life, “only a little worse,” where he works at a pizza joint and becomes besties with Eugene, a Russian musician who “offed” by electrocuting himself onstage immediately following a gig. Shea Whigham plays Eugene and he and Fugit have reasonably decent chemistry as two very unlikely friends. When Zia learns that the girl who broke his heart and led him to slit his wrists, the lovely Desiree (Leslie Bibb), subsequently killed herself and is now looking for Zia, he and Eugene set off in Eugene’s pos car to find her. Along the way, they pick up Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon), a beautiful girl who claims she’s landed in suicide purgatory by mistake and is seeking the “People In Charge” to appeal her case. They cross paths with a few unusual characters and eventually find something better than what they originally sought.
It’s a good premise and an effective hook but the problem is, once it has you, it doesn’t exactly know what to do with you. Patrick Fugit is damned delightful (why isn’t he in more things?) and the performances are good enough but the story itself leaves much to be desired. Tom Waits has a small but seemingly significant role – I say “seemingly” because he plays Kneller, leader of a sort of commune called “Kneller’s Happy Campers,” who eventually helps Zia find Desiree and even inadvertently helps Mikal find the PIC but his character and place in the story is so bizarrely surreal, it feels much less important than it should. Mark Boone Junior (of Sons of Anarchy fame), Nick Offerman and Will Arnett all have cameos but even they fall relatively flat. The humor is mediocre, the plot weak and the resolution, while not exactly disappointing, is far from gratifying. And that’s the biggest problem with Wristcutters: it never gets you invested enough in either the story or its characters to evoke any real emotion. It’s just merely okay.
I’ve certainly seen worse movies and at 88 minutes in length, it won’t waste much of your time. But I can’t say I recommend it. There are many more satisfying ways to spend an hour and a half.