The Movie Was Better: Wristcutters: A Love Story VS Kneller’s Happy Campers

By on November 29, 2011

Every now and then a movie comes along that was based on a book, or a short story or a novella and it turns out that the movie was actually BETTER than what it was based on. Now don’t bite my head off, it does happen. I am not saying in those instances that I didn’t like the book, I am just saying that the movie did it better. However, because it is so rare that a movie was better than its written counterpart, this column was created. In this column we take a moment to look at both stories and explain why the movie was better.

So this time, I am looking at the film, Wristcutters: A Love Story, based on the short story Kneller’s Happy Campers written by Etgar Keret. This short story was featured in his collection called, The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God & Other Stories.

What is it about?

It follows a young man who kills himself and lands in an after life that isn’t any better than the real world he left… not that its hell. Everything is just a little worse. And no one EVER smiles. He lands a job at another dead-end establishment (pun intended) called Kamikaze Pizza and gets a German roommate. Here in this so-so afterlife he yearns for the girl he loved and lost, Desiree. But when he hears that she also “offed” herself shortly after his death, he sets out with his best friend, to find the girl he thinks is the one. However, he soon meets the love of his afterlife, and realizes Desiree was never the one. The movie has amazing actors like Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon, Shea Wingham, and Will Arnett. Also Tom Waits acts in the film as Kneller and does a fantastic job.

Pretty macabre subject right? Well, yes, but it is also hilarious, and endearing and has a chick named Mike (short for Mikal of course).

Why is it the movie better?

So honestly, I saw the movie first, and I loved it. I rated it the coveted 5 stars on Netflix, which so far had only been reserved for Arrested Development, Doctor Who, and every Wes Anderson film ever made. So safely to say, it was one of my favorites. I read the short story later when I got it for my birthday, and honestly, I liked the short story too. But it was just that. Short. I made a declaration that I had hardly made before. The movie was better. And here is why:

The Small Details:

The director, Goran Dukic, made a wise choice in that he added many small details that were not present in the short story to give it more depth. Such as, there are no stars in the after live for those who kill themselves.  Something most people take for granted, are taken away in the afterlife and you are left yearning for it. Also the ability to smile, you don’t have it there, and why should you? You killed yourself because you were unhappy. Easy logic. Also he added the black hole underneath the seat of his car where he is constantly losing sunglasses (I think we have all experienced this phenomenon in the car). This is not in the book, but it added a lot of comedic moments to the film. The most important thing the director added was the back-story scene. Our main characters meet a number of people though out the story and in the film we get to see back-story glimpses to why and how they killed themselves. Such as a young lady depressed, puts her head in the oven, or two mechanics who are lovers, kill themselves together and now spend the afterlife together. As well as how and why the main characters kill themselves from electrocution, to slitting wrists and to an accidental overdose. These small little bits add so much to the film. Because while you can see the outward affects of the way people offed themselves, the story just gives closure to the peoples life story.

One other thing I liked was the name changes. I don’t know why but I had trouble associating the names in the book with their characters. But the names used in the movie fit perfectly. Mordy became Zia, Leehee became Mikal, and Uzi became Eugene. This doesn’t have any merit but I liked it anyway.

The Ending:

Many people will probably disagree with me on this, but the ending on the movie is way better. I know the world doesn’t always have a happy ending but this story was so much more gratifying with the happy ending on the movie versus the not so happy ending of the short story.

In the short story it ends with Mordy going back to work at the pizza place, never to see Leehee again (turns out she was there by mistake and got sent back to reality) but he honors her memory and (secretly) hopes to see her again. This is fine, but you know in your heart he will never see the love of his afterlife again unless she kills herself. Terrible.

The ending of the movies goes like this: Mikal is picked up by the People in Charge (PIC) because she was there by mistake. However, it is revealed that Kneller, who our main characters have befriended (and retrieved his missing dog), is actually in charge of the PIC. Because he sees that Zia and Mikal are meant to be together, he brings them BOTH back. They wake up next to each other in the ER after his suicide attempt and her accidental overdose… and they smile for the first time the whole movie. It’s incredibly gratifying. Maybe its just that I am girl and I love happy endings but I really prefer this ending to that of the short story.

Conclusion:

The ending, and the small things that were added made a huge difference to the feel and the look of the movie. It is one of my favorite films, and I honestly do love the story but in this particular case, I think the movie won out for my heart. Besides in the film we get a great quote like this:

“Who the hell wants to live in a place where you can’t even smile? It’s hot as balls and everybody’s an asshole.” Mikal.

About Sarah Sommer

Sarah is a journalist and an artist who lives in the city. She loves movies and television. She reads early and often. Sarah also helps out over at BSCkids.com and our other sites!

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