Emotional Rescue: Fearless

In 1990, an Emory graduate and DC-metro native named Chris McCandless donated his entire savings to OXFAM, gave away his belongings, burned in car in a field out West, and eventually fell out of contact with his family. In that time, he had traveled up and down the Western United States sometimes by foot, by boat, or hitchhiking. McCandless was motivated by a neo-Walden (maybe more neo-Rousseau) desire to experience life as the most purest form of Man in a world that seemed to him riddled with absurd baggage that had corrupted his most basic civility.

It had been done before, even long before Thoreau penned Walden. A trend of young men from well-off families who had backgrounds similar to McCandless: intelligent, good students, accomplished athletes. Chris’s parents owned a business and lived in the suburbs. These modern day adventurers would eventually resign to the wilderness, and it was often a failure to really prepare for it that lead to early deaths. McCandless, at the age of 24, died only two years after resolving to indulge this indefinite primitive experiment, surviving 112 days in the Alaskan wilderness until he was poisoned by a variety of plant he’d eaten. His story was retold in Jon Krakauer’s article for a 1993 issue of Outside, “Death of an Innocent,” before being turned into Into the Wild, a book that included Krakauer’s own experiences in the wilderness, and most recently, adapted for film by director Sean Penn.

Critical reactions to McCandless’s story and those of his predecessors tend to miss the point of their voluntary transformation: it was an act of escape. They found it baffling that society should continue to accept it’s own absurdities without question. In a way, their escape was something like Fight Club, but without the violent catharsis. The simplest example of this point is when McCandless wanted to raft down the Colorado River and was told by a park ranger that he’d first have to get a permit. Before he was issued anything, however, he’d have to put his name on a waiting list, although reservations for permits already filled the next twelve years. McCandless, in stunned disbelief asks, “12 years – to paddle down a river?!” He padded anyways, permitless.

McCandless and his fellow escapists also had to go to great lengths to satisfy their separation from the world they’d view as alienating and corrupt, wandering far into the fringes of the last bits of isolated, American wilderness. McCandless made that journey nearly 20 years ago.

One of the characters in Charles Williams’ suspense 1962 novel, Dead Calm, later adapted twice for film (the first being an unfinished Orson Welles picture), suggests that there is no idyllic setting to retreat to anymore. That the young painter who wants to go to Polypenisia to live like Gaugin once did won’t find what he’s looking for. “In the first place, there’s no escape from our so-called civilization anymore; the twentieth century is something we’re locked into and there’s no way we can get out; when we got to Papeete we’d probably find the same jukeboxes, the same headlines, the same cocktail parties, the same jet service from here to there, the same Bomb, and the same exhortations to embrace the finer life by buying something.”

If trivialities conquer the universe, the only escape then, is within yourself. Tyler Durden most poignantly demonstrated this in Fight Club, and his philosophy was simple: “just let go.” In 1993, director Peter Weir’s Fearless was released. It was more of what might be thought of as an independent drama by today’s standards, one delving into philosophical debate rather than typical hum-drum narrative. More importantly, it offers a different view of escapism in the modern, 20th century-saturated world.

Adapted from Rafael Yglesias’s novel, it stars Jeff Bridges as Max Klein, a plane crash survivor. This is how the movie immediately begins and we see Klein who, almost paralyzingly nervous about flying, can’t help but to ignore his colleague assures him that everything will be just fine. Then there’s the crash. Klein appears dazed amidst the wreckage, but looks to help other passengers. His behavior seems almost matter-of-fact, and instead of notifying his wife and son of his survival, he checks into a hotel and visits an old friend before police come knocking on his door, having finally found him. But in those few days since the wreck, he had entered a strange new plane of invincibility. And in his disappearance, a sort of escape. He became invisible to his world and sort of wandered through it like a living ghost, no longer burdened by or afraid of anything. (In one scene he closes his eyes while driving on the interstate and allows the car to veer as it may while he presses the accelerator to the floor). The film does an amazing job of demonstrating that abstract for the viewer, to see the world as Klein does before and after the crash.

While he manages to transcend the limitations of his previous life, it’s something that his wife and others around him don’t seem to understand. And the local news crews that constantly hound him, parade him as the 6 o’clock headline hero. John Turturro plays Bill Perlman, a psychiatrist hired by the airline to console the survivors, but the ones he can’t seem to connect with are Max and the seriously depressed Carla Rodrigo (Rosie Perez, earning a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for this role), who blames herself for her infant son’s death (she was holding him in her lap when the plane crashed). Max views most everyone around him reacting to the crash (the lawyer, the media, Carla’s husband, etc.) as selfish and instead, he befriends Carla and helps her with her emotional recovery, trying to share with her the changes he had undergone in attempt to help her start letting go. That her child’s death isn’t something she can change, nor something that she could blame herself for.

As Max and Carla become closer friends, he draws further away from his wife, Laura (Isabella Rossellini) who doesn’t understand the lasting personality change in her husband, and further becomes frustrated when he tells her that she didn’t really understand what he had gone through when they crashed, nor that she ever could. How could he go back to what he had escaped, or what would it take for her to reach that unbound reality, too, especially where it took drastic means to transform Klein?

(The video clip above is a fan video montage using scenes from Fearless. Song: “Excess” by Tricky.)


Fiberglass Underdogs: North Shore

The creators of the 1987 cult surf adventure, North Shore, deserve a lot of credit. Granted, it manages to pack several tired cliches of the sports movie genre into the span of 96 minutes (the triumph of the underdog, the Romeo and Juliet-inspired romance, and the preserved spirituality of a sport that’s become a billion-dollar industry), but the filmmakers managed to successfully avoid the heavy Hollywood hand that, for example, movies like Thrashin’ and Under the Boardwalk suffered from. Having come out around the same time as North Shore, they were skate and surf movies that were obviously steered by studio executives and filmmakers who had no real concept of the then-modern teenager, nor their sport, resulting in movies that made pure caricatures of both as though the research was limited to browsing pictures in top-shelf sports magazines and scanning slang dictionaries.

North Shore, on the other hand, albeit in dated fashion, still managed to maintain a certain respectability. The movie introduced relatively unknown actors (many of whom could surf, which eliminated the need for too many stunt doubles). Major supporting roles were filled by some of the best professional surfers of the decade like big wave superstar Laird Hamilton, Gerry Lopez, and Mark Occhilupo, while guys like Shaun Thompson, Corky Carroll, and the late Mark Foo showed up in cameos. There was nothing particularly inaccessibly luxurious about the settings or the characters. They came from a regular towns and modest homes. And most importantly, the filmmakers remembered to make surfing the top priority, emphasizing this with some gorgeous 35 mm surfing footage for a documentary effect which would later be blatantly duplicated in director John Stockwell’s mediocre surfer girl drama, Blue Crush. When the movie surfaced on cable movie channels in the past, it had sometimes been accompanied by a short behind-the-scenes commentary with director William Phelps (who co-wrote North Shore with Randal Kleiser and Tim McCanlies), and it focused primarily on the cinematography, which may seem rare, considering that behind-the-scenes shorts are usually edited to be used as promos and extended trailers.

Plus, like the 80s cult favorites, Real Genius and White Water Summer, North Shore was one of those rare 80s movies whose cult appeal partly stemmed from a fairly decent soundtrack (by 1980s standards, of course!), this one featuring tracks by Australian performers such as Gangajang’s excellent, unofficial national anthem, “Sounds of Then (This is Australia).”

Despite corny dialog and again, rampant cliches, the film has maintained a strong cult following over the years, which of course, helped the transition to DVD in early 2007, marking the 20th anniversary of the movie. And thankfully fans were delivered a handful of beefy extras, although the drawback is a somewhat excessively saccharine commentary about how it was just about everyone’s dream just to appear not just in a surf movie, but in this surf movie.

The leading role of Rick Kane was played by Matt Adler. Like most of the actors in this film, he kicked around as a supporting character of B-movies for years, though John Philbin may have been the more visible among the professional cast. Ironically or not, Adler would kind of repeat the Kane model when he played a timid high school swimmer in the 1990 movie, Diving In. (By the mid 90s, Adler would take blink-and-you-miss-him roles in an array of idiotic and convoluted indie dramedies like Quiet Days in Hollywood and Hollywood Palms before fading out altogether with just a footpath of ADR Loop credits every now and again).

But here, he’s just Rick Kane, a surfer fresh from the wave tanks of Arizona. Just out of high school, he takes his meager contest winnings (well… maybe meager by today’s financial standards) and heads to Hawaii for the summer. His mother pleads that he consider his future, since he’s been offered a scholarship to an art school in New York City. “I hear the East River’s got some pretty hot waves,” he jokes, viewing the trip as an imperative, not only as a much needed break from 12 consecutive years of schooling, but also to find out whether or not he has any sort of real talent for surfing before it’s too late.

Kane is ambitious, inspired by his idol, Lance Burkhart (Laird Hamilton) who makes fine bank surfing professionally. But, he is also young, naive, and extremely cocky. For someone accustomed to surfing ripples in a wave tank, he can’t just expect to float a twin fin shortboard into some of North Shore’s most intense surf with any sort of ease.

Rick gets no warm welcome when he arrives, anyway. The guy he intends to stay with flakes on the invitation. All but his board is stolen at the beach by an obnoxious local with no tolerance for haoles (tourists). And the big kicker: he even finds out his surfing idol, Lance Burkhart, is a major asshole. Uncertain what to do at this point, having traveled 4,000 miles only to wind up broke and stranded, things start to turnaround when he meets goofy, Pidjen-speaking surfboard shaper, Turtle (played wonderfully by scene-stealing John Philbin who now runs a surf school on the North Shore) who tries to explain to Rick the social customs of the legendary surf destination (“[He works] only when the surf is bad… cause when the surf is good, no one works!”). And Turtle introduces Rick to the surfboard company owner, Chandler (Gregory Harrison), who becomes his soul-surfing mentor when Rick agrees to redesign his company logo in exchange for a place to stay.

A great feature of this film is that as Chandler mentors Rick on surfing, the viewers are given a speed course on the mechanics of board shaping and the anatomy of the beach, a rare piece of Surfing Appreciation 101 for a fictional surf film. Amidst the obligatory coaching of the underdog and inspiring that drive away from commercial to a more spiritual fondness for the sport is the sub-plot of Rick falling in love with the lovely local girl, Kiani (Nia Peeples), and is constantly met with intimidating opposition from the overly-protective males in her family (her uncle is played by pro-surfer Gerry Lopez).

The movie was left open for a sequel and Rick Kane assures his friends, Turtle and Kiani, “Hey, I’ll be back!” but the idea was nixed due to poor reception of the first film. That can be an awkward way to leave things off… unless it became a reunion film at this point.

Pressed Against the Looking Glass: Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading arrived in theaters this month with tremendous skepticism. Could Joel and Ethan Coen deliver another film to match the success of their 2007 Best Picture adaptation, No Country for Old Men? One review immediately suggested that the writing and directing team made their first mistake by reverting back to their “default” genre: comedy.

The Coen brothers didn’t fail audiences with reversion to a comfortable genre. They’re trademark fashioning of humorously idiosyncratic worlds have often proved successful. Were critics going to suggest that, because of the strength of No Country For Old Men, the Coen brothers should basically make the same movie again? That is… until of course, getting backlash from critics that they’re being redundant?

Burn After Reading was actually written during the time that the Coen brothers were penning the script to No Country for Old Men. This is their first original screen play since their 1990 drama, Miller’s Crossing.

More specifically, the Coen brothers return to write and direct a black comedy. And it’s always been a suitable genre, considering their choice of subjects – the persistent theme of Karma’s watchful eye. Although, comedies or not, it is common in most all of their films. Burn After Reading is like a funny take on Stanley Kubrick’s classic noir, The Killing. There is a dramatic shortage of redeeming characters on screen and their fate is pretty clear.

Set in Washington, DC (some of the movie was filmed in New York, and most in Brooklyn Heights, although there are several apparent scenes shot around the Georgetown University neighborhood), the film opens with the demotion of a high-strung, aging CIA Agent (John Malkovich, for whom the part was initially written for) who struggles to resist the fact that basically, in both professional and personal life, he is now irrelevant. His wife (played with elusive emotion by Tilda Swinton), impatient with her husband’s transition to shiftless layabout, weighs divorce. Her lawyer suggests that, while the two should try to reconcile, a picture of his future financial prospects should be a relevant factor in the ultimate decision. Crass as it may sound, marriage seems like a mere necessity for security, considering she’s having an affair with their friend’s husband (George Clooney) who himself is a hobbyist of womanizing.

The bone to pick about the movie is really execution. The initial unraveling of the tale begins with what feels like disconnected vignettes that, for a little too long, fail to make sense in their connection to an overall narrative that centers around these vile, upper class narcissists.

Elsewhere, a dim-witted, self-conscious fitness gym employee (played by Joel Coen’s wife, Frances McDormand) who is being consulted by a doctor about various nip-and-tuck procedures to hide some of her aging body. It is, she claims, necessary to her job and her ticket out of the Single Life. Denied by her insurance company coverage for cosmetic surgery, her silver lining comes along when her dufus Hardbodies coworker (Brad Pitt, perhaps in his loosest form for a change) thinks a CD left behind at the gym contains valuable top secret information. And after a little digging, they find its owner and so, the overall narrative is clear as the two gym employees concoct a disastrous blackmail scheme. With such a serious beginning to the film, this pair of idiotic, scheming Hardbodies coworkers are just the kind of odd-ball comic relief the audience needs. Their kind of idiocy and assumptions, fueled by unrelenting personal desire, feeds comedies like these (see Guy Ritchies gangster follies, Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch).

But of course, the Coen Brothers, even in comedy, never offer pure cartoon humor. There is violence and there are body counts. And this is no different, and even more so this time around. These handful of characters are eventually confined to a narrower playground, and once they are, their interaction becomes a concentration of self-destruction that barely poses much lasting impact on the rest of the world when all is said and done, which makes things in the end seem even more alienated because, the self-involvement lasts beyond just these characters that seek our attention. The more disturbing feeling, however, springs from a sense that the nihilism is far from fiction.

Burn After Reading is a sharp look at stupidity. Despite some initial poor reviews, Coen brother fans shouldn’t be too disappointed with the results. It is probably not likely to gain the cult following of their earlier comedies like Raising Arizona, O! Brother Where Art Thou? or The Big Lebowski, but it’s probably also not likely to fall into complete obscurity like Intolerable Cruelty.

Closing this review with a nugget of trivia: the contraption that Clooney’s character builds in his basement was inspired by both an invention of a key grip and something out of the Museum of Sex in New York City.

Infantmania: Baby Mama

(Warning: this post contains spoilers)

On the Internet Movie Database, one commentator’s review title suggests that Baby Mama (2008 ) is the perfect Anti-Apatow movie. That’s not quite an accurate description. Even at the end of Knocked Up, once-reluctant parents drive off with Baby at their side, ready to welcome the challenges and pleasures of parenthood… and cue the music!

But, the difference between the two movies is that in Baby Mama, baby infatuation is there from the start. Tina Fey plays Kate Holbrook. A 37 year-old, single, corporate success who tries desperately to oblige the slowing tick of her biological clock. She’s succumbed to an obsession where everything reminds her of babies. When she learns that her physiology may prevent her from getting pregnant, she seeks all manner of alternatives like in vitro fertilization, sperm donors, and adoption before finally settling on a surrogate mother service run by a woman (Sigourney Weaver) who can’t seem to stop having babies.

Although assured that the service’s screening process is rigorous enough to find the perfect surrogate mother in every way, Kate instead finds herself contractually bound to Angie Ostrowiski, a clean version of Philly’s answer to white trash played by fellow Saturday Night Live veteran, Amy Poehler. Though she’s expected to be the ostentatious candidate, as the female co-star of a moralistic semi-drama, she’s obligated to be less crude, and eventually more aware that her common law husband, Carl (Dax Shepard) is a total idiot who may interfere and mess up the pregnancy. When Angie breaks up with Carl, she winds up moving in with paranoid and prim future mom, Kate, forging the female odd couple.

Eventually, the two have to learn to adjust to each other, despite Kate’s attempts to quickly reform irresponsible Angie to her liking such as forcing her to purge her poor eating habits. Although, Angie too, tries to get Kate to simply ease in her own conservative stubbornness by taking her clubbing, for example.

Aww… they’re just like sisters!

With their increasing compatibility, Kate Holbrook might finally get what she desires most – the joy of raising a child. But of course, viewers should be raising their too-good-to-be-true flags even in a Rob Reiner-esque Perfect White World like this. Something is going to go wrong.

As it turns out, the whole thing is a scam hatched by Carl, where he and Angie pretend that she’ pregnant in order to collect the check. But karma comes back to bite them, and Angie is in for a big surprise herself.

Oh yeah… more babies!

The criticisms of this film have a common thread among them – casting the “envelop-pushing” Fey and Poehler in the leading roles attached an expectation that Baby Mama would be a display of similarly outrageous satire. It wasn’t. In fact this movie seemed more suitable for the likes of Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson.

Saturday Night Live writer, Michael McCullers, steered painstakingly towards conventional romantic comedy and even coalesces on moral grounds. To begin with, Angie and Carl are, with few exceptions, innocuously trashy. And of course, everyone finds redemption in… you guessed it… parenthood. Sure Kate may have jumped into bed with the charming neighborhood juice bar owner (Greg Kinnear) on the first date, but it’s okay, because not only will she eventually discover she is (at last!) pregnant, but that it’s likely to be legitimated with a ring. And Kinnear is already a father to a charming 12 year-old he visits on the weekend. Meanwhile, Angie and Carl will be forced towards the path of at least some responsibility when Angie learns that in fact, she’s pregnant too. And the doorman to Kate’s luxury apartment building (the token black character here), who once explaining the meaning of “Baby Mama,” drawing on his own experience of having two, also eventually embraces perfect parenting. It is not surprising then to end the movie like Ron Howard’s saccharine and pastel perfect Parenthood ending, where it’s babies abound.

Honestly, are women just getting pregnant from the water?

Even Judd Apatow’s version of the rites of passage tolerated certain perpetual parental doubt and fear and above all, limited it’s baby count. Apatow isn’t really an opposite extreme, but if anything, it drains the overzealous realities of Baby Mama.

Now to go finish my copy of Alternadad.

Garbage Gets Me Hot: Student Bodies

A few weeks ago, it popped up in the Netflix library search: Student Bodies, something so hilarious, yet so obscenely low-budget and obscure (and perfect for those past-midnight cable horror marathons that never run anymore), it’s transition to modern movie technology seemed unlikely. Could it be real, Netflix? Could it?!! Because you must’nt toy with a girl’s emotions!

But indeed, it was finally released to DVD in June.

See children, long before the one-laugh movies of the Scary Movie franchise, well-known screenwriter Mickey Rose, who had written for several popular sitcoms such as Happy Days and All in the Family as well as better Woody Allen films, co-directed with Michael Ritchie (who also directed the Fletch movies and the Bad News Bears, among other things) this 1981 horror parody that is first introduced as basically a spoof of any memorable horror movie at the time like Halloween, Prom Night, and When a Stranger Calls, but soon just becomes a free for-all for screwball humor that wavers between hilarious trash and something that’s just disturbingly weird.

The plot is simple: the promiscuous students of Lamab High School are winding up dead and have only their raging hormones to blame, it seems. As one of the young, misguided victims says before he dies: “I can’t help it, mechanical bulls get me hot!” Indeed.

The prime suspect in all of this is Toby (Kristen Riter), a skittish virgin in hideous polyester (“I didn’t do it, I never do it!”). But of course, she’s innocent, right? And she’s intent on proving such by finding out the real identity of the mysterious killer who is nicknamed “The Breather.” Thankfully, “The Breather” helps us out with a potential list of probable suspects:

“Hello, it’s me, The Breather. You’re probably wonder who I am. Who could I be? Could I be the innocent looking Toby? Would you trust a girl who looked like Prince Valiant in a plum sweater? Maybe I’m Dr. Sigmund; a man who was once arrested for corrupting the morals of a hooker. Then there’s Malvert; with an I.Q. of a handball and the personality of a parking meter: violated! Could I be the principal Mr. Peters; a man who keeps cheese in his underwear to attract mice? Let’s not Ms. Leclair; English teacher by day and English teacher by night. Ah, Miss Mumsley; She’s eats 12 prunes a day and nothing happens. Nurse Krud and Ms. Van Dyke; what’s in a name? Everything! And then there Dumpkin; a man who sleeps with nuts in between horsehead bookends.”

Despite the obscurity of almost the entire cast, all of whom have few other film credits, if any, Richard Belzer surprisingly supplied the voice of the mysterious Breather, a serial killer with a contempt for sexually active teenagers and an interesting foray of weapons: paper clips, belt sanding cases, and even eggplants. Every time someone or something (like a fly) is killed, the body count flashes on screen, making this just about the easiest damned murder mystery to solve! Well… maybe if it was one that adhered to any sort of logic. But even the Breather gets stupidly irreverent, calling and informing the investigative team of various school administrators and teachers where he will strike next.

Of course some of the free-for-all approach has been criticized as a drawback when it comes to tying it all up with a reasonable ending and the movie seems to run out of steam by the last five minutes in a wash of circus-like surrealism. It becomes so spoof-heavy as humor trumps any real desire to follow a sensible, solvable mystery. But then again, the piss-your-pants stupid nonsense style is the movie’s best features! Who gives a damn whether the mystery in the end makes any sense when the killer on the loose is attacking people with typing team trophies?!

Nonetheless, the film has thankfully achieved transition to modern technological formats. But despite the enthusiasm of it’s cult fan base, there is relatively background available on the film. Even the DVD is a bare-bones one. Also, my compliments to Netflix who’s Instant viewing library has recently filled with many more never-thought-I’d-find-this-movie-here titles.

Strange New World – Wristcutters: A Love Story

“Miracles only happen when they don’t matter.”

The hook of Wristcutters: A Love Story, adapted from Etgar Keret’s short story, “Kneller’s Happy Campers” is most certainly its premise. A contribution to the surrealistic road trip genre, it centers on an entirely different afterlife. The place where people exist after they “off themselves.” Our main character, somewhat, is Zia (Patrick Fugit). He was once a happy man, until somehow the relationship with his beautiful blond girlfriend, Desiree ended. And that’s when Zia decides to kill himself.

Welcome to this strange kind of post-suicidal universe, it looks to have been shot along the desert-lined highways out West, it looks as though these are perfectly regular locations, but given the coloring (often bleached or grayed) and appearance of the surroundings, there is something hopelessly depressing. Allowed closer inspection, it is clearly a depleted version of the world they’d once known. (Says the lead character, Zia: “I thought about suicide again, but I’m afraid I’ll just wind up someplace worse than this.”) Buildings are mostly junked abandons. People (who’s method of suicide is sometimes apparent) can’t even smile. The female companion on this roadtrip, Mikal is on a mission to find the “leaders” and explain that her arrival was an accident: “Are you joking? Do you guys like it here? Who the hell likes being stuck in a place where you can’t even smile? It’s hot as balls, everybody’s an asshole. I just wanna go home. ” There’s elements of the former world as well, such as the enforcement of vandalism laws. Or having to get a job and pay rent. It’s also kind of futuristic (in that post-apocalyptic sense) and this universe even has it’s charms and magic, so it’s not completely undesirable. People are reminded of suicide here, their own and others, but do they ever regret it? The characters simple seem so matter-of-fact about it’s occurrence.

When Zia runs into a familiar face (don’t it just seem like everyone is committing suicide after a while… time to revive Big Fun!), he learns that Desiree, distraught over her boyfriend’s death, killed herself too, and that she is somewhere to be found in his world now. He solicits the companionship of his friend, Eugene (Shea Whigham, a Florida doing a good job playing a Russian), a guy who’s whole immediately family wound up there with him, and Eugene, who has the car, agrees to embark “Eastish” in search of this girl. He is somewhat his wisdom, somewhat his source of confusion, especially with Eugene’s philosophies tied to his nature of trying to always be the Man’s man.

As the road trip genre obligates, they’re journey intersects with a lot of strange characters and one more for the trip: Mikhal (Shannyn Sossamon), the one who claims she got there by accident and is hitchhiking her way around in search of the leaders to explain that it was a mistake, something that might convince the reader they’re about to head into something more like liabilities as a result of typos (Brazil). Croatian writer and director Goran Dukic, who’s film credits mostly include shorts, did a lot of adding to Keret’s short story. Like the black hole in the car, for example, to emphasize the surrealism of the after-life, though larger ambitions were restricted by the shooting budget and an inflexible 30-day shooting schedule at 17 locations. And while Dukic was working with several well known actors, including Will Arnett who seems like he’d be totally out of his expected element if this weren’t black comedy, Patrick Fugit, John Hawkes, and Tom Waits, it’s funny to hear what inspired his cast selection: he really thought they were good in movies that pretty much everyone has seen. And Tom Waits? “I’d been listening to him since I was a little kid.” Which might hint that they worked for incredibly little money to appear in this movie, which seems inevitable for a movie with such intense low-budget quirk.

Thankfully, despite that low-budget quirk, it’s spared the typical “quirky indie” paint with childish block lettering and bold colors and excessive irony. Instead, Wristcutters is fairly steady black comedy (fairly stead because there’s this weird experiment involving Will Arnett’s guru-type character) that brings it closer to surreal road trip movies (a mishmash of activity and points of focus) and it even has a happy ending. Add to that a soundtrack dominated by rock singers who had committed suicide at one time, and the modern gypsy-punk of Golgol Bordello (the lead singer of which, Eugene Hutz, is modeled upon for the character, Eugene), the movie rarely seeks convention and for that reason, can take it’s viewers just about anyone it wants in this strange new world.