Culture > Movies

Wicker Park


Issue: "Education: Sick schools," Sept. 18, 2004

The muddled Wicker Park is a remake of the 1996 French film L'Appartement. Set in snowy Chicago, the film has atmosphere to spare, but flat performances weaken an increasingly convoluted plot. Wicker Park (rated PG-13 for sexuality and language) contains no violence but does feature several nonexplicit sex scenes.

Josh Hartnett plays Matthew, an ad executive who works for his fiancée's brother. Just before leaving on an important business trip to China, Matthew thinks he catches a glimpse of a girlfriend (Diane Kruger) who vanished mysteriously two years prior.

It becomes clear that the life Matthew created since then-fiancée, corporate job-was simply an attempt to insulate himself from the pain of losing Lisa. He's willing to give it all up to get her back, so he ditches the flight to China and starts following clues to Lisa's whereabouts.

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One can't say much more without giving away some of the time-shifting plot. Matthew's best friend Luke (Matthew Lillard) and Luke's girlfriend Alex (Rose Byrne) figure prominently in the story, with the mystery hinging on the relationships between these four people.

Wicker Park has enough complexity to hold audience interest, at least initially. But as the plot "thickens" it begins to seem more contrived, more dependent on coincidence, and more easily averted by simple actions-like a phone call, for instance.

More capable actors could have helped. Mr. Lillard, known more for teen fare, actually brings some life to the film, but Wicker Park really rests on the shoulders of Mr. Hartnett. He's an actor you want to like, but he brings a kind of mealy-mouthed awkwardness to nearly every role-like Hugh Grant without the British charm. Before too long, you may find yourself hoping that he'll pause a moment, compose his thoughts, and then take a rational step forward.


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