Josh Hartnett’s narrow, squinty dark eyes and magnetic nonchalance may be the stuff that makes young women swoon, but the actor is far too stolid to convey the frazzled, fanatical desperation required by Paul McGuigan’s soporific romantic mystery Wicker Park, a remake of Gilles Mimouni’s L’Appartement. Hartnett is Matthew, a star advertising executive in snow-drenched Chicago who—although preparing to pop the question to his boss’s daughter (Jessica Paré)—is still haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his former girlfriend Lisa (Diane Kruger) two years earlier. When he thinks he spots his lost love in a bar, Matthew ditches his business trip to China to investigate, and his search eventually leads him to another woman named Lisa (Rose Byrne)—or is her name Alex?—who not only seems to share a connection with his missing paramour, but who appears to be secretly dating his friend Luke (Matthew Lillard). Director Paul McGuigan (The Reckoning) strives to transform this enigmatic riff on Vertigo into a tantalizing examination of romantic infatuation, the gaping chasm between objective and subjective reality, and the cruel (and wonderful) ways in which chance determines the outcomes of our amorous encounters. Yet the fashion-model-pretty Hartnett and Kruger share little chemistry during flashbacks to Matthew and Lisa’s happy past (a scene in which Matthew reads the paper in the kitchen as Lisa twirls in blissful ecstasy comes across as kids playing grown-up). And despite lots of insincere grimaces to the contrary, neither star seems mature enough (nor awake enough) to be ruinously scarred by spurned affection. Such superficial posturing is emblematic of Wicker Park, what with McGuigan’s bagful of ostentatious camera tricks and an unnecessarily jumbled and self-conscious jigsaw puzzle narrative that feels as if it were written before the advent of portable phones—had Matthew and Lisa owned cells, their initial separation would have been easily preventable. That Brandon Boyce’s script devolves into a far-fetched Single White Female-inspired stalker story—and then ignores the unresolved lesbian longings Alex harbors for Lisa—is unimaginative and lame; that it utilizes a weird science fiction-meets-kabuki Shakespeare production to overtly present implicit subtext is conclusive evidence of the film’s overarching simplicity. Director McGuigan’s incessant use of split-screen alludes to the film’s thematic preoccupation with duality, but the irony is that, like the obvious pop songs that underscore every big scene (highlighted by a climactic cover rendition of Coldplay’s faux-sincere “The Scientist”), this vapid film exhibits a single-minded desire to spell things out for its audience.
- Paul McGuigan
- Brandon Boyce
- Josh Hartnett, Rose Byrne, Matthew Lillard, Diane Kruger, Christopher Cousins, Jessica Paré
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