WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY
This week’s movie:
I cried at the end of Old Yeller.
Of course I was only six, but still …… so what? I also teared up a bit for Grave of the Fireflies, and Love Story, and Ghost, and My Girl, and Bambi, and Pandora’s Box, and The Bridge to Terabithia, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. You know …….the usual tear-jerkers. The point is, I consider myself relatively normal. My black sense of humor non-withstanding, I usually react to films the same way that most people do. So - when I say that I found this week’s movie, about an afterlife populated by people who have committed suicide, rather sweet and endearing, it’s not because I have a warped sensibility (I do, but that’s not why), it’s because the movie really is sweet and endearing.
Now, before you say, “Oh God! Not another one of these oddball freaky FranksFilms-esque movies! Why can’t you review ‘normal’ films like Made of Honor or What Happens in Vegas?” The truth is, I see a lot of movies like those and some of them are pretty good - but there’s nothing new or different or unusual about them. I know exactly what to expect, and I get it - they’re predictable, they’re pure entertainment, audience satisfying, seat filling ticket selling commodities but they won’t raise any new issues or make you think uncomfortable thoughts or make you look at the usual in an unusual way. Whereas, the films that I feature here typically have an unusual hook or do something exceptionally difficult or take chances that have a great payoff. WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY does all these things.
A young man, Zia, commits suicide (guess how) when he becomes disconsolate after his girlfriend dumps him. Now you might think, there’s no excuse for that, suicide solves nothing, nobody is worth killing yourself over …..to which i say, you haven’t seen his girlfriend - she pretty hot. The irony is, his is relegated to an afterlife two or three notches more depressing than the one he left behind. He is assigned a depressing job, lives in a depressing apartment with a roommate he hates. He considers committing suicide again but, who knows, he might end up in a worse place - I mean, where do you go if you’ve committed suicide from the suicide afterlife? I mean really, it boggles the mind.
Zia does make friends. Eugene, a failed Russian rocker, killed himself on stage during a show. They pick up girls together and compare suicide stories. Eugene lives with his family. Yes, his entire family committed suicide - not all at once. They are happy (somewhat) but it’s not easy to be happy here. You can’t smile, there are no stars in the sky, the landscape is bleak, nothing works right, there are no good jobs and no good apartments - what do you want? You’re dead - make the best of it.
All this so far is just a set up for the story. From a chance meeting, Zia is given a piece of information that sets him off on a journey - a quest of sorts - almost impossible, given the circumstances - but as he tells Eugene, “Do you have anything better to do?” He needs Eugene. Eugene has a car - a depressing one - the kind each of us has had at one time or another. Along the way, they pick up a hitchhiker, Mikal, who is on a quest of her own. She is looking for the PIC (People In Charge) because, she claims, she is there by mistake and would they please send her someplace nicer. They meet up with, and stay for a while at a small commune led by Tom Waits, and find a camp belonging to a suicide cult who, it seems, have been transported there en masse. They’re still up to their old tricks, so maybe we will find out what happens if you kill yourself in the suicide afterlife after all.
We never really find out why all the suicides end up here. Perhaps they’re given this opportunity to work things out in a way they weren’t able to in life. Maybe they’re forced to find happiness in a placed devoid of it. Maybe, if they find it, it’ll no longer be so damn depressing. Funny things is, although the landscape is stark and the circumstances are depressing - the movie isn’t. The movie is funny, and sweet, and happy and whimsical. In a bleak existence, miracles can (and must) still happen. Performing one seems to be a rite of passage - and one can still find friendship and purpose and even love.
The clever story and dialog contain lots of satire and social commentary. In the novel, “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, One of the characters (a demon from hell) drives an antique car and points out a fundamental, if unwritten, law of nature that - “…any cassette left in a car for more than a fortnight turns into ‘Best of Queen’” In WRISTCUTTERS: ….., Eugene’s car points out another well know rule - any object that falls under the front seat, disappears from the known universe and is never seen again.
And finally, as the title implies, this is a love story - simple true and unpretentious, without gimmick (well …….except that it takes place in the suicide afterlife) - characters find love the way real people do (well …….that is, except that it takes place in the suicide afterlife). It is a universal story (except ……well, you know…..).
I know that suicide is a serious subject and that we shouldn’t make light of it - but the film never makes light of the suicides. It just proposes the concept that your life is unfinished and maybe there are still things you need to do. Besides, war is a serious subject and we still have films like Mash and Catch-22. Also, killing is very very serious, and yet Live Free or Die Hard is still a fun time at the movies, as is The Matrix and the Indiana Jones films and the James Bond films. So I don’t want to hear another word about it.
In the film What Dreams May Come, Robin Williams kids are killed in a car accident. He and his wife are beyond grief, but at least they have each other. A short time later, he is also killed in a car accident and goes to heaven (the real heaven). The mother, on the other hand can no longer cope with the grief and being alone and so - kills herself. She doesn’t go to heaven - not even a suicide’s version of it. Instead, she is sent to hell (yes! hell). It hardly seems fair. WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY, although it has a lot of suicides, is far less depressing - it’s much fair-er.
“Oh, Frank - I don’t know. This sounds really strange and bizarre. I don’t know if I would like this.” Yes - that’s the point. Films that are different are also original - and you might like a type of movie you haven’t seen before. But you won’t know until you try it. Of course, if you don’t like to try anything new, you could watch Sleepless in Seattle over and over and over and over …..
Over the years and thousands of movies, I’ve made some observations about romantic comedies. For instance: The plot to 80% of all romantic comedies: Boy and girl meet, they like one another, they fall in love, things are going great but one of them has a dark secret that the other can never find out, the other finds out, they break up, the one with the secret tries and tries to get the other one back, they get the other one back in the end, love conquers all. The plot to nearly all of the other 20% of romantic comedies. Boy and girl meet, they hate one another, they constantly fight and argue, during one particularly harsh shouting match - one reaches out and kisses the other, they realize that they actually love each other, love conquers all. I think that this genre needs new material to revive it - so I’m proposing 10 different and unique romantic plot lines for possible future films. I’m throwing them out there - fell free to use them as you wish.
- A single woman lives on a houseboat on Puget sound. Every time she falls asleep, she dreams of a romance with a single man from the East Coast, who dreams of her when he’s asleep. Time zones notwithstanding, they carry on a hot and heavy courtship every night. It’s called “Sleeping in Seattle”.
- A man with multiple personalities discovers that two of his selves have fallen in love and plan to get married - but a forth personality wants to put an end to this by stealing himself away from himself.
- A man with ten wives has an affair with a woman with ten husbands. Much of the movie involves trying to figure out exactly how many adulteries were committed.
- Everybody loves robots, but the truth is that most robots don’t get along with other robots. Two robots buck tradition by moving in together into a small 1 bedroom above a flower shop. The flower shop lady can’t understand why suddenly she always hears clanging metal. Perhaps she needs to get those pipes fixed - yeah, the pipes, that’s it.
- Two comatose patients suddenly become aware of each other when their telemetry monitor wires accidentally get crossed. He admires the occasional dips in her EEG’s alpha waves. She is turned on by the cute way his EKG spikes between the Q’s and the R’s every time he “sees’ her. The hospital staff get confused when her EKG suddenly develops a second fainter faster heartbeat.
- Co-joined male Siamese twins fall helplessly in love with co-joined female Siamese twins. The courtship runs into a roadblock because they can’t seem to get any ‘alone time’. After coming up with what they consider to be the ideal solution, an 18 hour operation by a team of surgeons separates the two sets of twins - then they reattached the male/female couples together. In a surprise twist, the couples, upon waking, are aghast when they find that they have been mistakingly attached to the wrong mate.
- A beer-guzzling hockey-loving man and an opera-going martini woman truly despise one another. Unfortunately, because they have spent most of their lives watching romantic comedies, they realized that they must eventually fall in love. In a bold move, they decide to get married to bypass the whole ‘falling in love’ progression and move straight to boredom.
- The His and Hers towels have been getting rather ‘cozy’ lately. Hers likes His casual, somewhat disheveled unfolded look, and His likes the feel of the fabric softener Hers has been washed in. It’s hard to ignore the other since they’re always hung side by side. One day, Hers leaves for a few minutes and comes back totally drenched. His is consumed with jealousy, and would like to storm off, but is fated to always hang next to Hers. The outcome is a bit predictable, I’ll admit, but with such likable attractive characters, this is one hell of a thrill ride.
- An anthropomorphic animated tale, the kind that Disney is so good at. Mandy’s biological clock is ticking. She’s a praying mantis who is down on love, but throughout the story, her heart softens a bit by the advances of Jerry, a charismatic wise-cracking male mantis. Finally, she can resist no longer and allows herself to fall madly in love with him. In the climatic ending, Mandy and Jerry share one long intense passionate kiss ……,before she bites Jerry’s head off. Love conquers all.
- Bill declares to the world, “I love chocolate cake!” His friends tease him, “Well, if you love it so much, why don’t you marry it!” - And so he does. On their 50th anniversary, he tells her, “You’re as fresh as the day you were baked.” It’s all the sugar, she tells him.
WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY - you’ll love this story.