In Goran Dukic‘s "Wristcutters: A Love Story," suicides end up in an afterlife that looks a lot like industrial Los Angeles. Hell? No. Twee? The argument could be made. But reviews are decent to mixed on the film, which premiered at Sundance last year and has played at dozens of festivals since, and was for a while thought undistributable because it might be read as using suicide as a platform for comedy. "Fundamentally ‘Wristcutters’ isn’t about suicide at all," writes Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir.
It’s about how life, when you’re young and aimless, can sometimes feel like a living death, a condition a "little worse" than the real world. What makes the film work despite its almost slavish devotion to its deadpan, Jarmuschian roots is its finely crafted contrasts — between [Patrick] Fugit‘s restrained performance and [Shea] Whigham‘s goofball pseudo-Russian, for example — and its whimsical attention to detail.
He concludes that "It’s a mannered movie whose vision is stark and whose emotions feel completely authentic, and for me at least that’s irresistible." "For a film about suicide, Wristcutters is agreeably loopy and game," adds Tasha Robinson at the Onion AV Club, who could have done with less novelty-cast Tom Waits and Will Arnett but who still finds that "it’s a surprisingly playful romantic drama, one less about death than about the quiet, necessary grind of living."
Shrugs Kristi Mitsuda at indieWIRE: "[T]aken for what it is–a romantic comedy road trip aspiring merely to fulfill its generic dictates — ‘Wristcutters’ mostly succeeds with its cleverly posthumous scenario." "The whole film is cracked, but in a stylish, downtown way," blurbs Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly. At the New York Times, A. O. Scott notes that "The Sundance Film Festival (where ‘Wristcutters’ first popped up in 2006, before vanishing into indie limbo) can be a breeding ground for studiously whimsical, willfully quirky films. ‘Wristcutters’ belongs to a rarer species: it is genuinely eccentric." He adds that "What makes it work is that the performers, trapped in a weird movie about a weird place, underplay their astonishment."
J. Hoberman at the Village Voice is less charmed by the way the film has quirkified its source material, Etgar Keret‘s 1998 novella "Kneller’s Happy Campers": "Dukic slaps the low-quirk label ‘love story’ on Keret’s melancholy fable. Yet, rather than betrayed, Keret feels embalmed. The movie is too well crafted: The visuals are insufficiently slapdash, Keret’s meandering narrative made linear and lugubrious." And Ed Gonzalez at Slant points out that underneath the afterlife setting, this "is that movie where some dorkus gets his heart broken by a girl who is way out of his league, falls in love with another hottie at the precise moment his old flame reenters the picture, and is forced to choose between the best of two pootangs."