Wicker Park

Wicker Park


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

There are those who wait and those who make. Wicker Park is of the latter persuasion, a DIY love potion with added sugar.

Matthew (Josh Hartnett) was a photographer in jeans, T-shirt and beanie, working in a photo shop in the old quarter of Chicago. Now he's an advertising executive for a successful New York company in suit and tie, with polished shoes. He's also engaged to the boss's sister.

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He is about to take the night flight to China for an important sales pitch in Beijing when he overhears a conversation in a restaurant phone booth and recognises the voice of Lisa (Diane Kruger), the dancer he used to be crazy about.

In a series of scattergun flashbacks, the story of their affair emerges. Meanwhile, in real time, he misses the plane on purpose - it's weird that his boss isn't calling every five minutes, demanding to know why he has insulted his Chinese hosts by not turning up for the meeting - and wanders around Chicago, trying to find the girl of his dreams.

Complications arise. In fact, there are so many coincidences your brain switches off as the plot disappears off the radar. It turns out the arch manipulator is a girl called Alex (Rosie Byrne), who used to live in the same block as Lisa and became her friend. She is either a nurse, or an actress, or both. Matthew's buddy Luke (Matthew Lillard - the best thing in Scooby-Doo and Scream - utterly wasted here) is dating her, or trying to.

Alex has a crush on Matthew and plays every mean and deceptive trick in the book to nail him. Outside, it's winter and the snow is falling and clouds of white breath envelope the characters in ghostly halos, as they stand in Wicker Park waiting for each other. There is so much hanging about and so little connection and, due to the memory flash construction, repetition and confusion rule.

Based on the visually audacious, dazzlingly intriguing French thriller of 1996, L'Appartment, with Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci, Paul McGuigan's Hollywood remake indulges a form of slow motion romantic slush that smoothes the rough edges and gives the film a polished sheen to disguise its mediocrity.

Kruger, last seen as Helen of Troy, is enigmatic and beautiful, perfectly cast in the love-of-my-life role, never entirely real. Byrne works flat out to put flesh on the skeleton of a concept. You admire her effort, rather than the person she becomers. As for Hartnett, he continues to live up to his reputation as the dullest actor of the new generation. He makes Kevin Costner look vital.

Reviewed on: 10 Sep 2004
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Love triangle in Chicago turns into a slow motion flashback puzzle.
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Director: Paul McGuigan

Writer: Brandon Boyce, based on Gilles Mimouni's screenplay of L'Appartment

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Rose Byrne, Matthew Lillard, Diane Kruger, Christopher Cousins, Jessica Pare, Vlasta Vrana, Amy Sobol

Year: 2004

Runtime: 115 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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