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Wicker Park

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Wicker Park

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Rose Byrne
Director: Paul McGuigan
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 115 Minutes
Release Date: September 2004
Genres: Mystery, Romance, Suspense

*Also starring: Diane Kruger, Matthew Lillard, Jessica Pare, Stefanie Buxton, Christopher Cousins, Gillian Ferrabee, Marcel Jeannin, Stephen Milton, Erika Rosenbaum

Review by Harvey Karten
2 stars out of 4

"Love makes people do crazy things" says one character midway into Paul McGuigan's "Wicker Park" as if anyone in the audience did not already know this. The crazy things that this particular woman does go well beyond what any of us would do, crazed by jealousy though we may be. Or are they? As you sit through the story scripted by Brandon Boyce and Gilles Mimouni based on the latter's French film "L'Appartement," you'll undoubtedly recall how you've been playing the game of love and calculate to what extent you might work your wiles to get what you want from the love of your life.

Matthew (Josh Hartnett) is the principal focus of this story of affection, obsession, jealousy and betrayal, as a young man on the rise in his firm to such an extent that he is being sent to Shanghai to close a big deal because the boss has much confidence in Matthew's ability to sell. The company should have thought twice, because Matthew never does get on the American Airlines flight to China because he's madly in love with a beautiful woman, Lisa (Diane Kruger) with curly blonde hair, a seductive way of arranging meetings, and most of all with an ability to disappear from her lover's life–even when she's two feet away from him in a restaurant's closed phone booth. Though Matthew believes he is being ditched, in reality another, equally lovely young lady, Alex (Rose Byrne) is jinxing the match because she becomes as obsessed with Matt as he is Lisa, thus forming the eternal triangle.

"Wicker Park" spends a good deal of its one hundred fifteen minutes keeping us in the audience guessing about how everything will turn out, yet somehow hoping (thanks to heavy- lidded Josh Hartnett's sleepwalking through the role) that he'll wind up with no one. We might even wonder why pretty Alex is prepared to ditch her far livelier and certainly more interested boyfriend, Luke (Matthew Lillard).

The movie, filmed only somewhat in the Chicago of the story but mostly in Montreal, including a Quebec suburb in which the title Wicker Park is shot, takes place over a two-year period, most of whose months find both Lisa and Matthew desolate because each thinks that the other has disappeared from the intense relationship. The time changes are mighty confusing, frequent buzzing into the past and present coaxing us to wonder how things will turn out, but on the whole we're perplexed–not to say left with open-mouthed disbelief about the enormous coincidences without which there would be no story. Hartnett lack the depth to make us believe in his passion, but director McGuigan goes beyond credibility when he casts Rose Byrne as a performer in a Shaksperean play on a Chicago stage. The principal defect is that a plot that features characters who are head-over-heels in love leaves us with simply an intellectual guessing game. Since we do not feel the excitement of love that propels the actions of the four principals, we are left with actors who are watchable enough but perhaps due to a convoluted script are not able to engage our emotions.

Copyright © 2004 Harvey Karten

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