Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel

Wicker Park (2004) *

Directed by Paul McGuigan. Written by Brandon Boyce, from the script of the French film ''L'Appartement'' by Gilles Mimouni. Photography, Peter Sova. Editing, Andrew Hulme. Production design, Richard Bridgland. Music, Cliff Martinez. Producers, Andre Lamal, Marcus Viscidi, Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi. An MGM release. 114 minutes. PG-13. Cast: Josh Hartnett (Matthew), Rose Byrne (Alex), Matthew Lillard (Luke), Jessica Paré (Rebecca), Diane Kruger (Lisa), et al.

I have not seen the source French movie. But it was very well received in France and England. Its maker (Mimouni) received the 1998 BAFTA (i.e. British Oscars) best foreign film as well as the U.K’s 1998 top prize as Best Independent Film; also the 1997 Cesar (France) for best first movie; plus most promising actress (Monica Bellucci). It played briefly and sparsely in the USA, where it was also praised, by the few critics who saw it.

The American remake “Wicker Park” -– shot mostly in Chicago and Montreal —- is one of the worst films I have seen in recent times, an opinion shared by regiments of viewers plus hordes of critics.

In many, though indirect ways, this flick is Hitchcock-inspired, specifically by an undigested “Vertigo.” This only goes to show how great King Alfred was and how poor his imitators are.

Matthew (Hartnett, who has followers among teenies) is a Chicagoan, and, according to what review you read, a photographer or a camera technician or whatever, in New York. Somehow he has jumped into big business, has returned to Chicago, where the company he works for now is sending him to China to expanded the outfit’s reach.

Just before flying off to China (first class) he attends a business-plus lunch at the Windy City’s tony Bellucci Restaurant (yes, like the name of the original film’s actress –how cute!.) The Big Boss is there, other notables, plus the Boss’ daughter with whom Matthew is, sort of, engaged. But then, when Matthew goes to the john, he hears the voice of Lisa who is phoning. Miracle of miracles! Lisa, a dancer, was his grand passion (it was mutual) but two years ago she suddenly, abruptly, inexplicably left for England, leaving her lover inconsolable, bewitched, bothered and bewildered.

Lisa’s indirect reappearance throws Matthew in a mega-turmoil. To make an impossible plot/story short, the young man forgets all about his current fiancée, pretends to leave for China, sets out to find Lisa. That’s Lisa One as, in the story’s unfolding, there is a Lisa Two whom I could perhaps explain if my newspaper allowed me an entire issue to that effect.

What follow is the Napoleon of all messes. It involves his best buddy and shoe-salesman Luke who is played by Matthew Lillard, looks idiotic and keeps appearing –no matter what the situation— with the same ridiculous and moronic smile. (He has sex with Lisa Two, with whom Matthew does ditto.)

I cannot go on with the plot. Most of it is entirely obscure and/or annoying. The film jumps around places, subplots, sub-suplots, the calendar and such non-stop. The photography is confusing though occasionally OK-artsy, along with flashbacks, flash-forwards, more flash-backs, plus split-screens, gimmicks and more obscurities. And you, the audience, may check your watch so often that its battery could run down. It takes no time for this madness to spill into absurdism. Swiss cheese is an amateur when compared with the movie’s holes. Just one more dispiriting case is the awful song at the conclusion (so to speak) of the movie.

A microscopic consolation is the beautiful Lisa One played by ex-model Diane Kruger who, in the recent “Troy” was Helen Queen of Sparta who later became Helen of Troy and whose face launched a thousand ships. Even so, in “Wicker Park” what she mostly launches is a thousand questions.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel