Wicker Park

2004, Movie, PG-13, 114 mins

Review

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A convoluted exercise in shifting perspectives and fractured storytelling, Paul McGuigan's remake of the 1996 French film L'Appartement (unreleased in the U.S.) lays a slick, brittle thriller gloss over a not terribly interesting story of thwarted love, romantic obsession and preposterous coincidence. A rising star at a hip Chicago advertising agency, Matt (Josh Hartnett) is "nearly engaged" to his boss's sister, Rebecca (Jessica Pare), and working on the most challenging campaign of his career. On the eve of his departure for a crucial meeting with clients in Shanghai, Matt is profoundly shaken by a glimpse of a woman who looks exactly like his old girlfriend, a willowy, blond dancer named Lisa (Diane Kruger). Lisa, we learn through a series of jagged flashbacks, was the love of Matt's life; she disappeared two years earlier without a word, and though Matt appears to have moved on, he's still devastated by her abandonment and would give anything to find out why she broke his heart. So rather than get on the plane to China, he enlists the help of his old friend Luke (Matthew Lillard) and follows a series of clues that leads first to a hotel room, then to an apartment and finally to Lisa herself. Except that she's not his Lisa; this Lisa (Rose Byrne) is a small, dark-haired nurse who's being stalked by her ex-boyfriend (Christopher Cousins), a creepy older man who's always lurking in the shadows and leaving single long-stemmed roses outside her door. A couple of twists later, we learn that she's not a nurse and her name isn't Lisa — it's Alex, and to say more would spoil the twists and turns that are the film's raison d'etre. But be warned: The dramatic payoff isn't worth the mental gymnastics required to straighten out the tangle of overlapping and contradictory flashbacks. Unlike McGuigan's equally complicated but riveting GANGSTER NO. 1 (2000), this sleek but unsatisfying exercise in romantic angst defeats itself at every turn. With a stronger cast, the silliness of the narrative machinations might not have mattered — the plot of VERTIGO (1958) is preposterous, but James Stewart's richly nuanced performance lends it a haunting gravity. McGuigan's callow actors (it bears noting that the original French cast has an average of 10 years on the young Americans) have nothing to bring to their one-attribute characters — beautiful Lisa, sensitive Matt, kooky Luke, nutty Alex — and the agonies of cartoons don't amount to much. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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