Wristcutters: A Love Story (US - DVD R1)
Gabe has a new favourite movie about suicide induced alternate realities...
When the love of his life dumps him like yesterday’s newspaper, Zia (Patrick Fugit) slices his wrists and awakens in limbo. His new life is much the same as his former life, but everything is just slightly worse. In the suicide realm Zia befriends Eugene (Shea Whigham), a Russian rocker who lives with his entire family, who are all also suicide cases. One day Zia learns his ex-girlfriend has also committed suicide, and he convinces Eugene to accompany him on a listless road trip to find her. Along the way the duo picks up hitchhiker named Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon) who insists she’s been sent to limbo by mistake, and is in search of the ‘people in charge’.
I’m actually a very romantic guy who happens to like romantic movies; it just happens that most films labelled ‘romantic’ are schmaltzy puddles of placating goo. Wristcutters is a pleasantly skewed love story that doesn’t placate and is light on the schmaltz, which is really enough for me to suggest a viewing to most people. It’s filled to the brim with dry wit and loveable deadpan characters, it carries just the right dash of quirk without devolving into a three ring circus, and the world it embodies is a cinematic original (as far as I know). Despite its rather attention grabbing title (not to be confused with Josh Becker’s Lunatics: A Love Story), Wristcutters doesn’t slip on banana peels to pry the laughs from your throat.
Smart comedy is a lot harder than bawdy or gross-out comedy, and subtle comedy is even harder than that. By layering low-key chuckles over the whole of the film, Wristcutters earns its few full-out belly laughs. The biggest guffaws come from the scenes in Eugene’s beater car, which has a black hole under the passenger seat which sucks up every pair of sunglasses the heroes get their hands on, and scenes featuring Eugene’s music, which amusingly plays throughout the entire feature. Some viewers will likely flat out hate the film’s nonchalant take on life, death, and love, while others may call it callus. I call it funny.
The film’s listless nature, which is a big part of what makes it special, does sometimes cross the line into tired, but it always manages to swing back into the pleasant category. At only eighty-eight minutes the pace should probably be hectic, but director Goran Dukic maintains a calm sense of bittersweet levity. I can also understand some viewers (and critics) taking issue with the film’s super hip look at Generation Y nihilism, a problem that has plagued popular television for about a decade. Shannyn Sossamon and Patrick Fugit are hipper then you, and they know it, but their hearts still glimmer strongly enough to illicit an emotional response. Or at least it did for me.
The actors are integral to the film’s success. Before finding the film on my doorstep I had been wondering what happened to Almost Famous’ Fugit, and had recently realized that Shannyn Sossamon is fantastic, even in awful movies. Needless to say Wristcutters was just what I needed. Will Arnett, John Hawkes, and musical hero Tom Waits are all memorable supporters, but it’s Shea Whigham, who I’ve never seen in anything before that steals the whole show as Zia’s charming and curmudgeonly Russian buddy Eugene.
I know that Lionsgate is capable of really sharp DVD and Blu-ray transfers, but they rarely seem concerned with their more modestly budgeted films. Wristcutters is rough around all the edges. Details are fuzzy, jagged edges are laced with white enhancement, and noise overtakes every frame. I’m being a nitpicker, of course, but this is a weak enough transfer that I’m pretty sure even those most unconcerned with this type of thing will notice. Ducik’s colour play is slightly wasted by the relative murkiness of the brighter scenes. The blues of the dead world are pretty solid, and the reds of the living world are obvious enough, but something is definitely lost.
This DVD comes fitted modest 5.1 Dolby Digital track to supplement the iffy video quality. The whole movie is pretty modest, so this isn’t a surprise. Most of the track is devoted to the centred and clear dialogue, with a few wisps of surround sound effects peppered throughout. The musical track, which is also modest, is the strongest audio element. Without the audio commentary I would not have noticed that all the music that plays in the limbo realm has been recorded by artists that have committed suicide. Nice touch. This, of course, includes Eugene’s song ‘Through the Roof ‘n Underground’ (actually sung by cult band Gogol Bordello, who are still alive), which I guarantee you won’t be able to shake from your head for at least a month.
Extras begin with a playful and informative audio commentary featuring director Goran Dukic, actor/producer Mikal Portnol Lazearev, producer Tatiana Kelly, and actor Patrick Fugit. Dukic is a well of knowledge, divulging brief histories of just about every member of the cast and crew, describing technical aspects in layman’s terms (like the de-saturation process), and pointing out the background action we may’ve missed. Kelly and Lazearev fill in the blanks, while Fugit is very amused by just about everything on screen.
‘Making the Final Cut’ is a better than average but very short behind the scenes featurette. The pace is very fast, and there are some really big spoilers, but there’s some stuff to learn (unfortunately I already learned it while listening to the commentary track). In eight minutes the interviewees (director, producers, and two actors) tear through pre-production, art direction, cinematography, casting, adaptation, location scouting, and filming. The special film stock test is startlingly beautiful, and I wish it would’ve been featured in its entirety somewhere on the disc.
Next are ten deleted scenes, lasting fifteen minutes, and presented in a semi-rough form. As per the norm these cuts were good choices. With them in the film things may’ve become unbearably listless, and a great deal of them take place before the introduction of Shannyn Sossamon’s character, who brings a great deal of sunshine to the flick. There is one very amusingly un-PC scene involving an Arab taxi driver that could’ve been left in (guess why he’s in suicide limbo), and more Hawkes and Waits is always a good thing, but the alternate ending is missing. Things finish up with a storyboard to film comparison, Fugit’s on-set photos, and trailers.
Wristcutters isn’t a love story for all takers, but it should earn its minor cult status over the next few years. I’m recommending it pretty highly, but fully acknowledge that there will be some folks that hate me for it. Lionsgate’s video treatment is pretty dismal, so hopefully interest in this disc will bring about a Blu-ray release some day down the line. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must avoid the traps set up for me in every corner of this town.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 18th March 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Extras: Director/Producer/Actor Commentary, Behind the Scenes Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Trailers, Storyboards, Stills
Easter Egg: No
Director: Goran Dukic
Cast: Shannyn Sossamon, Shea Whigham, Tom Waits, Patrick Fugit
Length: 88 minutes