Jun 16, 2014

Review: Wicker Park (2004)

Remakes are always a dangerous proposition, especially ones that are usually just to Americanize foreign releases. Wicker Park, named after a Chicago neighborhood where the movie is set is a remake of the French film L'appartement with Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci. I'll admit that I haven't seen it, but a quick Wikipedia search reveals that it was well received by critics. At the time of writing this, it's 7.6 score on IMDB is also quite high, so I would assume that L'appartement is a pretty good movie to say the least.

The concept of a psychological romantic thriller is interesting and Wicker Park likes to think of itself as one. The end result isn't convincing though. Wicker Park basically has two parts; First, it throws everything it can at the viewer to keep them confused as to who people are and what is going on before all of a sudden turning into a pure romance. The effort feels disingenuous most of the time and enjoys being stylishly confusing.


Genre: drama, mystery, romance
Directed by: Paul McGuigan
Produced by: Andre Lamal, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, etc.
Written by: Brandon Boyce
Music by: Cliff Martinez
Running time: 114 minutes
Production company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Lakeshore Entertainment
Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Concorde Filmverleih, Herald Film Company, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $30,000,000
Box office: $21,568,818 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Rose Byrne, Diane Kruger, Matthew Lillard, Jessica Paré, Christopher Cousins, Amy Sobol, Ted Whittall




Matthew Simon (Josh Hartnett) is an advertising executive who comes back to Chicago after a 2-year absence. He's in a relationship with Rebecca (Jessica Paré) and he's considering getting engaged with her. At a restaurant with Rebecca and some clients, he believes to have seen his ex-girlfriend Lisa (Diane Kruger), who he's still in love with. He's unable to get her before she leaves but then decides that he wants to reunite with her and rekindle what they once had.


To me, it just seems that Wicker Park is trying extremely hard. There are just way too many easy coincidences to seem believable and the flashback storytelling is tiring. The so-called mystery portion of the film is the worst part of it and the romance portion is only a little better.

The initial suspense that Paul McGuigan tries to create is based off of camera tricks that don't reveal everything. Matthew thinks that he sees Lisa at this restaurant but oh, he somehow only sees her shoes which are identical to the ones she once had. He could have simply looked up no? Also, in a world where we have cell phones and the internet, a lot of how the story is set up would be impossible. The set-up is pitiful and it's clear that Brandon Boyce has just completely failed at this screenplay.

The film tries to have a cool and edgy editing technique but it's a headache-inducing mess. It honestly looks like what I'd accomplish with Windows Movie Maker to show off a slideshow of vacation pictures. This "WMM technique" thankfully only appears a couple of times and only really for the mystery portion of the film.

(Spoilers) What I dislike about the romance portion of Wicker Park is that it unfairly paints one of the characters as a villain. In a shifting perspective, we find out that Alex Denver (Rose Byrne) is in love with Matthew Simon but she's too late. Simon loves Lisa and she watches unhappily from afar. She's basically a bad stalker while Simon is a good stalker. Some of the stuff she does is selfish yes, but Simon is a hypocrite himself. McGuigan directs the viewer to accept Lisa and Simon as a couple and tries to tie it up in a sappy ending sequence. (End Spoilers)

It's not easy translating a foreign movies for American tastes but I think that Wicker Park is a mistranslation. There isn't really any suspense besides frustration and the romance part of the film is misguided. It then tries to dress everything up with convoluted and impossible storytelling. Long story short, Wicker Park is just trying to be something it's not.



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