"This is the Sweetest Movie about Suicide Ever"
When we think of indie movies now, we don't just think of movies that are independently produced. We think of a style of filmmaking: lower budget, stranger situations, off-beat humor, alternative or punk music playing in the background. The word "Indie" has been reappropriated, and whether that's right or wrong, it's spawned a lot of big-budget imitators who are looking to cash in on trends.
This movie isn't one of those. But it has a distinctive, off-beat flavor to it that makes it both very interesting as a piece of film and very difficult to make a game for. Not to mention it's not even two hours long.
How exactly did we pull this off? In my opinion, with panache.
"Wristcutters: A Drunk Story": The Rules
1. Drink for Title Drops. That's the full title.
2. Drink for Daddy Issues.
3. Drink when they drink.
4. Drink when the People In Charge are mentioned.
5. Drink when something drops underneath Eugene's car seat.
All of the above rules apply. Also...
1. Drink when that one Golgol Bordello song plays. It's called "Through the Roof and Underground" we found out later.
2. Drink whenever differences between their world and our world are brought up.
All of the above rules apply. Also...
1. Drink whenever there's a shot of the characters in the car.
2. Drink whenever someone says the word "love". This doesn't happen all that much. Go figure.
3. Drink whenever someone joins or leaves the main travelling party.
Daku: Has no personal stake in movie production (Easy)
Seb: Will never die. (Medium)
Crafting this game was difficult. Playing the game? About as wild a ride as a road trip through a depressing desert.
One Good Trip
Something interesting happens when you make a movie where all the main characters have killed themselves. Their wants and needs suddenly become stronger, or rather, they try harder to find wants and needs to begin with. All of these characters have very clearly defined goals; Sia wants to find his girlfriend, Eugene wants to find a connection and a sort of extended family, Makal wants to get out. Because they literally have nothing else to lose, they spend the entire movie working towards their goals. Somehow, by taking away the potential for risk and loss, the premise of the movie has made more dynamic characters than other movies where the stakes are incredibly high.
Because of this, a movie that has the potential to be really depressing is instead oddly uplifting. This afterlife, touted as a place that's slightly shittier than our world (drink), also has the potential for miracles and wonder. Fish change color in front of you. Strangers form connections in ways that weren't possible for them before. Parted families reunite and doomed lovers are consoled by the fact that they aren't alone. It's a movie about finding joy where you can, even if you feel like you can't (or aren't allowed to) smile.
Of course, this is all pieced together from my vague recollections of the movie, because as the hard mode player, I got VERY drunk playing this game. I picked the right rules, and for a movie this short that is imperitive. About forty minutes in, I had already downed two and a half drinks, and that was before the money scene:
"Hey, Isn't That...?"
I, however, was focused on the girl who was doing most of the talking.
"Seb," I said, "Wasn't that chick on Buffy?"
Seb wasn't sure, but I looked it up later, and sure enough she was. Her name's Azura Skye, and she's been around forever, hosting a plethora of credits in TV and film. It's just that she's a character actress, so her leading roles are much fewer and farther between. And she's only one of several actors throughout the movie we experienced this feeling with.
The conspicuous exception is Will Arnett, who plays a Messiah figure leading a religious cult in our post-suicide afterlife (come on, how great is that?). Basically, he's a more successfull and revered version of Gob from Arrested Development. And because he was the only "name" actor in the movie, he got top billing when the movie hit theaters. Even though his part is only ten lines long.
Not that all the performers in this movie are great...
Makal vs. Desiree
"I don't mind Makal," said Bride of Buggerlas later, "because I HATE Desiree."
I'm just going to blame Sia and Makal's lack of chemistry on the fact that they can't smile. I think that works for me.
Of Muffins and Tom Waits
First, Sandy B'Drinkin dropped by and brought us blueberry muffins and sandwiches. It was awesome. Then she joined us in mocking the main characters and their decisions.
"Tom Waits is old," said Seb at one point. "The next time he has a concert, we have to go."
"Yes," said Bride of Buggerlas, "Because he's going to die soon."
Guys, Tom Waits is 63. He has some time. I think he only SOUNDS like he's been smoking since he learned to ride a bicycle.
Drink whenever you see someone smoke a cigarette.
Everyone seems to smoke here. Perhaps, as Bride of Buggerlas hypothesizes, it's because they aren't afraid of dying of lung cancer. Or maybe depressed people smoke a lot. Either way, it's something to watch out for.
Drink whenever someone chews gum.
Yeah...I have no explanation for the gum. It's mostly Eugene who does this, but occasionally Makal will steal a stick.
Drink for song title drops and source material title drops.
"Have I ever made you read Kneller's Happy Campers?" Bride of Buggerlas asked of the Disco Sheriff.
"No," he replied.
"What the hell is wrong with me?" she asked of herself.
Next week we'll look at a slightly happier movie.