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Wicker Park (2004)

Drama movie directed by Paul McGuigan

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Two really badly cast stars ruin any chance this film had.

  • Jun 26, 2009
If better actors than Josh Hartnett or Diane Krueger had been cast, WICKER PARK could have been a sleek thriller with lead characters we cared out. Instead, it's a glossy but fairly lifeless mystery that generates only academic interest.

Hartnett plays a young professional who seems to have it made. He's about to be engaged to a lovely young professional. He's helped land a major client, is about to globetrot to China in preparation for taking another leap upward in his career. Yet just as all these pieces are falling into place, he thinks he spies the woman (Diane Krueger) he had a passionate affair with 2 years ago...an affair that ended abruptly with her disappearance. He literally watched her walk away from him after a conversation in a restaurant and never saw her again.

He thinks he's moved on, but in truth, he is compelled to track down this woman who MIGHT be the woman he once loved (and clearly still does). His quest to track down this woman is interspersed with flashbacks of their relationship, from uncomfortable first meeting to hot, fiery passion to what sure seemed like love to Hartnett, at least. He follows the trail, and it doesn't quite lead him where he would have hoped.

He is assisted by his old friend, woman's shoe store owner Matthew Lillard. And he is drawn to another woman (Rose Byrne) who seems to somehow figure into all this.

The movie is a puzzle to be fitted together. And the puzzle is mildly, but only academically intriguing. In order to really care about this piece, we have to really care about the hot, steamy romance between our two leads. We need to FEEL a desire to see what happened to these people we care about, and we would then feel properly shocked, surprised, dismayed, joyful, etc. at all the events that unfold as Hartnett moves closer to the truth.

The basic plot of WICKER PARK is not too bad, but the script is not the best. It makes the mistake of assuming (as so many movies do) that if we see two attractive people making transcendent love in their chic apartments...we'll fall in love with them ourselves and dote on their every move. It takes a bit of sparkling dialogue or real chemistry between stars to do that. The script misses on the dialogue, and the two stars BADLY, REALLY BADLY miss on the chemistry part. Krueger hasn't really done too much on-screen work in the past, and with her accent, can perhaps be somewhat forgiven for coming across as a pretty airhead. Hartnett, however, is a more complex problem. For me, I am hard-pressed to think of a "star" in recent years who is less capable of acting. I guess "the chicks dig him" or something, because he kept landing big parts in PEARL HARBOR, 40 DAYS AND NIGHTS, LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN, HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE and this clunker. And in not one of those films was he even remotely convincing. In WICKER PARK, he's asked to smolder and look sad. His smolder makes him just look vaguely dim-witted and his sad makes him look like a 6 year old crying over a spanking from Mommy. He's truly, thoroughly dreadful, and utterly lacking in charisma. There are a number of "stars" who can't act very well (Dwayne Johnson springs immediately to mind) but they have charisma to burn. Hartnett is in the same category as Hayden Christiansen and Jessica Alba...singularly unable to be a human being an audience can care about.

Matthew Lillard is not a great actor either, but he at least musters ups energy and is mildly sympathetic. Rose Byrne is a dour creature...but at least something seems to be going on behind her eyes. I like her better in stuff like "Damages" where her slow burn has time to work. I wouldn't say she "succeeds" in WICKER PARK, but it is only as her character develops that any real interest in the film kicks in.

In the end, WICKER PARK aspires to be a mystery romance or perhaps a love-story / thriller. It neither thrills nor inspires romantic feelings. However, it does add another page to the "why Josh Hartnett" mystery.

I would avoid this PG-13 movie at almost all costs.

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More Wicker Park (2004) reviews
review by . September 05, 2006
When "arty" direction becomes a distraction, it becomes over-done and that's exactly what happens in this film. It also has enough plot holes to drive a Mac truck through. I'd been meaning to watch this for a while, but the sexual explicit looking cover and the blurb, made me think it would be weak-plotted but that certainly wasn't the case. The storyline is composed of flashbacks and that didn't affect my enjoyment of this film, despite its momentary confusion!     The beginning …
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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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No, Josh Hartnett doesn't make the most convincing corporate up-and-comer in the world, but then Matthew, his character in this pensive romantic drama, is supposed to be uncomfortable in his business costume. He's a photographer at heart, a sensitive guy who abandoned that passion when Lisa (Diane Kruger), his enigmatic other true love, abandoned him. Their romance had an oddly abrupt end after Lisa left without a word, so when Matthew thinks he sees her upon returning to Chicago, he starts lying to his fiancée and practically stalking his old flame before becoming entangled in a strange tryst with a lovesick nurse (Rose Byrne). The MGM publicity department busied itself trying to promote this remake ofL'Appartement(1996) as some kind of heavy-breathingFatal Attraction, and director Paul McGuigan certainly fills it with enough slick split-screens and MTV-soundtrack moments to hype it, yet it isn't even remotely a thriller. There are flashbacks upon flashbacks--Vanilla Skybegins to feel linear in comparison--and the screenplay insists on spelling everything out so we'll be sure to get how thoughtful it really is, but it all isn't half bad. Though Hartnett is a little out of his depth, his gentle, beleaguered masculinity works well, and the women are both compelling: Kruger redeems herself after being more wooden than the Trojan Horse inTroy, and Byrne is quite good. Even Matthew Lillard does solid work as Matthew's vulnerable, big-talking ...
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Director: Paul McGuigan
Screen Writer: Brandon Boyce, Gilles Mimouni
DVD Release Date: December 28, 2004
Runtime: 114 minutes
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
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