Review Date: August 30, 2004
Director: Paul McGuigan
Writer: Brandon Boyce
Producers: Andre Lamal, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg
A love-lost twenty-something about to embark upon a 4-day business trip to China, notices a girl in a restaurant whom he believes is the same girl he fell in love with a couple of years earlier, and who then, disappeared. Instead of getting on the plane, the man, who is now engaged to another woman, follows the "movie clues" in order to figure out where and who this woman is. Josh Hartnett in a suit...ensues.
WICKER PARK is a movie that runs too long, starts to feel contrived about halfway through and seems to go over some of the same things over and over again, but at the end of the film, I was smiling, I was happy about how things turned out and I noted how I was never particularly bored during the screening. In other words, this isn't a great film by any means, it has its share of problems, but it also offers a handful of positive elements that impressed me enough to want to recommend the film to anyone who believes in "true love", anyone who likes a touch of mystery in their tales of l'amour and anyone who appreciates a gorgeous visual look to a film, in its direction, cinematography and actors. I was also impressed with the lead performance by Josh Hartnett, who recently said that he didn't want to be a "movie star" so much as an actor doing great projects, and even though this film certainly isn't a classic by any means, I see what he meant by that, and if his performance in this movie is any indication, he seems to be headed in the right direction. Granted, Hartnett needs only to look extremely sad-sack or love-struck through most of the film, but does so convincingly, and even tosses some palpable vulnerability and confusion in for kicks. Diane Kruger, aka Helen of Troy, also comes through as the lover for whom Hartnett is longing, as does Rose Byrne, who despite crying in almost every one of her scenes, didn't overplay her card and turn into a complete caricature. The man who also helped lighten the film's very overt sense of the "morose" is Matthew Lillard, whose character doesn't really have all that much to do in the movie, but does steal almost every scene in which he appears, with spunk and one-liners.
Being as the picture does wander through a lot of flash-backs and convoluted twists, he also helps to reflect the audience's sense of confusion by stating obvious bits like "what the heck do you mean?" when things start to get really kooky. I was personally really going with this film until about the halfway mark, when it just started to feel a tad redundant (okay, I get it...he really loved his ex-girlfriend...get on with it already!) and ultimately revealed some of what may really have been happening, which didn't seem all too believable to me, with more questions aroused, then answered (too many coincidences, clues left behind and turns of "dumb luck"). The film's finale did help close some of the gaps, but ultimately I didn't really "buy" what the film was selling in that respect, and concentrated more on the "lover's angle", which did work for me. In that vein, I really liked the way things ended, particularly the last shot and the song playing in the background. Sweet. Overall, I don't think the film worked as a mystery, since the basic organism behind all of the ambiguity felt too far-fetched for me, but I liked the film's performances, I loved its sumptuous visual style (dug the split-screen stuff) and really appreciated its focus on "love", which ultimately tipped my scale. I'm not going to go out of my way to recommend this film in theaters, but it's a definitely video rental, at the very least. PS: This film was shot entirely in my hometown of Montreal and offered a little nod to one of its original French film's co-stars, Monica Bellucci, by naming one of its central restaurants "Bellucci's". Cute. The original film was entitled L'APPARTEMENT and co-starred Bellucci's now-husband, Vincent Cassell.
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian