Zia (Patrick Fugit) is depressed when his girlfriend, Desiree (Leslie Bibb), breaks up with him. In his depression, Zia decides to kill himself. He cleans up his place and slits his wrists in the bathroom. Then he gets a job in a pizzeria.
Zia finds himself in a limbo similar to real life, only just slightly worse. After meeting Eugene (Shea Whigham), a rock and roll wanna be that killed himself at a gig, they decide to search out Desiree once Zia finds out she too killed herself. Along the way they pick up Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon), a hitchhiker looking for the People in Charge because she is here by accident. The film then follows them on their dual journey throughout this world encountering other suicide victims and getting closer to their goal of finding what they seek.
I won’t give you any more than that because I want you to see it, and any more would spoil the film.
Written and directed by Goran Dukic (the only feature film to his credit), it is expertly crafted down to the smallest detail despite a budget of just one million dollars. The opening sequence sets the tone: Music and color. Everything is flat, as if God had turned the saturation down on life. The music is perfectly matched to the tone of the after life. Imagine Bright Eyes tracks on Ritalin. The entire film setting, the dessert matches this tone of color. Nothing bright, nothing new, nothing exciting. Simply muted tones and even the clothing seems to be thrift store chic that has been through the wash a hundred times too many.
The set design is priceless as everything from the bar to apartments feels old, rundown. Nothing is clean. Nothing is new. Rooms look like they’ve never been dusted, everything needs a new paint job. The entire world needs a wash and a remodel. It’s a secondhand world.
Comedy is in the details. A perfect example is supplied in the first five minutes. After killing himself and ending up in the purgatory-like place, he gets the job as in a pizza shop; Kamikaze Pizza. It’s just a brilliant choice that sets the tone for the kind of humor you’re going to get from the movie.
There are things that makes sense when you think of them. If you really want to interpret the design of the film, you can see why nothing can be fixed. Nothing can be nice and new again. It might have been designed this way out of budget concerns, but I like to think that everything just runs down until it breaks. Things just slowly degrade and then just stop working. You can’t fix anything in this place. It is all used and you run it until it fails. Take Eugene’s car for example. The black hole under the seat that sucks up everything that slides underneath it. The headlights that can’t be fixed. Duct tape holding everything together. It is missing almost all of the trim; it’s just the barebones. It’s all falling apart. Things could be improved in the old station wagon, but it is all just shitty. A nice little analog for the idea of depression, suicide, and life.
I love this movie for the well thought out design, the multiple layers of clever storytelling, and the cameo appearances, too. Did I mention Jake Busey, Tom Waits, and THE Will Arnett? Will is a cult leader that killed himself, then became a cult leader in the afterlife.
This film is like if Garden State killed itself. It’s an odd, wandering film with a great soundtrack and great casting. There are little subtleties that you might not catch right away, like the fact that no one smiles. Mikal points it out, but then you realize that up until that point no one had smiled. Not once. There are no stars in the sky. Not one. There is nothing in the movie that doesn’t look like it was abandoned on a curb and marked FREE. Not one.
It is a great movie for those with a dry sense of humor and an appreciation for low-budget, high-concept films. The music is great, the look is perfect, and it is the kind of film that was born to be on a small budget. Giving this kind of screenplay a multimillion dollar treatment would have cheapened it, if that makes sense. Check it out streaming on Netflix.
Don’t miss the feathers. You’ll see at the end. Enjoy.