When you have a unique premise and a unique setting, there are two ways you can go, you can either find an equally unique story to tell or you can just tack on a love story and count on the tried and true formula of Boys meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy mopes around, Boy gets Girl back to carry the day. Since the other half of the title of Wristcutters is Wristcutters A Love Story, you can easily figure out which way Wristcutters chose to go.
Wristcutters begins with Zia slashing his wrists in the sink and then waking up to find himself in another world that’s mostly like our own except that it’s decrepit and filled with people who committed suicide living in a kind of purgatory. Everything in the world is either broken or old, itself a neat conceit and allows Goran Ducik to cheaply create an alternate world, a purgatory falling apart at the seams.
That’s where the movie begins but it has nowhere to go and so it shambles along for 90 minutes or so as Zia meets Eugene and his Russian emigre family, who all committed suicide. He meets two girls who play a game of figuring out how everyone committed suicide. It’s interesting but it doesn’t lead us anywhere and so when Zia learns his girlfriend Desiree killed herself, he goes on a quest to find her along with Eugene and Mikal, a girl they encounter hitchhiking along the way who wants to find the People in Charge so they can return her to her normal life because she isn’t supposed to be here.
If this sounds like an offbeat Wizard of Oz, you’re not far off the mark, except think of Albert Brooks Defending Your Life reduced to a dreary post-industrial wasteland purgatory. In the hands of a more talented director, say Alex Proyas or Tim Burton, equipped with a real budget the movie could have been stylish enough to disguise its inadequacies but that isn’t the case here. Wristcutters even has a decent cast, aside from its primary weakness, Patrick Fugit as Zia, who’s equally mopey, dopey and ineffectual here as he was in Almost Famous. He makes a terrible lead and this is only further worsened by the fact that the movie pegs him with not one but two beautiful girls, Leslie Bibb’s Desiree and Shannyn Sossamon’s, neither of whom are remotely in his league and both of whom apparently fall in love with him for no particular reason.
If you have ever watched a Hollywood movie made in the last few decades or so, you can probably figure out what happens when a guy has an adventure with a girl while looking for his girlfriend, that’s right he realizes he’s in love with her and the girlfriend turns out to be a disappointment. And if you watched those same Hollywood movies, you can also figure out the ending too. If you’re in doubt, imagine the sappiest most cliched ending to a story involving death and suicide that there could be and odds are you’ll have guessed correctly.
Wristcutters is promising, it’s even ambitious and is a definite calling card for its director, but in the end it slashes its own wrists by using a completely implausible romance as a crutch instead of finding an original story to tell.