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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Paul McGuigan
Cast:
Josh Hartnett, Rose Byrne, Matthew Lillard, Diane Kruger, Christopher Cousins, Jessica Paré, Vlasta Vrana, Amy Sobol, Ted Whittall
Writing Credits:
Gilles Mimouni (film, L'Appartement), Brandon Boyce

Tagline:
Passion never dies.

Synopsis:
Enter the torrid and treacherous world of Wicker Park, where deception and seduction walk hand in hand. Starring an outstanding cast of Hollywood’s hottest young stars, including Josh Hartnett, Rose Byrne, Matthew Lillard and Diane Kruger, Wicker Park is a sizzling, action-packed noir thriller that will leave you breathless.

What if the woman you loved disappeared without a word? Without a trace? How far would you go to find her again? When Matthew (Hartnett) glimpses his lost love (Kruger) in a crowded café, he’s determined not to lose her a second time. But determination soon turns to obsession, as Matthew finds himself on a dangerous and chilling journey, where no one is who they seem … and chance meetings with a sexy brunette (Byrne) might unravel friendships, careers … and lives.

Box Office:
Budget
$30 million.
Opening Weekend
$6.819 million on 2598 screens.
Domestic Gross
$12.831 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 115 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 12/21/2004

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Actor Josh Hartnett and Director Paul McGuigan
• 10 Deleted Scenes
• Music Video
• Theatrical trailer
• Outtake Reel
• Photo Gallery


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Mitsubishi WS65315 65" TV; Pioneer VSXD409 Home Theater Receiver; Sony DVP NC665P 5 Disc DVD player; KLH Home Theater Speakers

RELATED REVIEWS


Wicker Park (2004)

Reviewed by Brian Ludovico (January 10, 2005)

Before I even start writing a review, I look over my notes from the movie in question and get an overall feel for how I reacted to the movie while watching it. Normally, notes like “Actress X = Nice Performance in Crying Scene,” “Moves well through first 30 mins” and a basic plot outline for the film. My very first note on my notepad turned out to be quite prescient. Exactly as it reads on my legal pad:

  • --Uh oh: Matt Lillard is in this movie

They don’t improve from there, but if I just transposed my notebook to this page, not only would it contain far too many curse words for general family viewing, but my editor would blow a gasket, J.J. Jameson style. The thoroughly uninteresting tale that is Wicker Park begins with Matthew (Josh Hartnett), a fast rising ad executive who seems to have the world on a string. He’s got a great job, he’s got a great position and presumably good money, he’s engaged to the boss’s sister, and he’s really handsome. On the eve of a big trip to China to close another high-profile deal, Matt finds himself out to dinner with the clients, his boss, and his fiancée at a fancy Chicago restaurant.

He excuses himself to go make a phone call only to find the phone booth occupied, so he goes to wait in the adjacent bathroom. Through the wall vent, he hears a familiar voice talking into the phone. He thinks it’s his ex-girlfriend Lisa, who disappeared from his life two years ago without any explanation. When he bursts out of the bathroom, the mystery woman is already gone. Instead of just thinking “Well that was weird” and returning to his life, Matt goes into the phone booth and smells it. Yes, smells it.

This apparently sends him into a flashback of memories. Through his nostalgia, we meet Lisa (Dianne Kruger). Matt started following her around, stalking her, actually, when he saw her face through a video camera when he worked at an electronics store. He followed her around for a while and figured out that she was a dancer. For Matt, it was love at first sight.

Snapping back into reality, Matt finds a hotel keycard accidentally left in the phone booth. Here’s where he’s going to decide his own fate. He can leave the card, go back to Rebecca and his lucrative job and happy life, or take the card and try to find out if what he heard was what he thought he had. Of course, since the movie has to have somewhere to go, he takes the card, slips the trip to China and heads to the hotel. He finds a familiar looking compact and, thanks to some pills he’d taken to sleep on the plane, he passes out in the room. It’s flashback time, where we learn about how their relationship originally started. His friend Luke (the immortal Matt Lillard) let him pose as a shoe salesman in the shoe store he owns, and Matt helped her pick out a very distinct pair of shoes. She scolds him for stalking her, but agrees to go on a date (this only happens in movies, stalkers). Of course they hit it off, even though Matt has no detectable charisma or personality, and we proceed to PG-13 Sex Romp Scene #174.

The banality of the memory wakes Matt up the next morning, when he finds a mysterious article about a murder, lying torn in the ash tray. Normal people would wake up and say “What am I doing in this hotel room, jeopardizing my job and relationship over a memory?”, be remorseful and try to right the ship. Matt decides he’s going to the funeral of the dead woman referred to in the article. Since he’s got experience, he gets right back into the stalking groove, this time following the guy whose wife died. He leads Matt to an apartment building and leaves Lisa a note. We’re in for another flashback from Matt right before he takes the note and the keys from the envelope and trespasses.

While he’s in the house, the owner comes home, and surprise, it isn’t his long lost ex, it’s someone completely different. He’s shocked to find out that this woman, a very attractive brunette, who also happens to be named Lisa. After a brief stage of alarm and panic, she decides not to call the cops. Instead, she thinks it’s a good idea to get drunk with this stranger and ask him to sleep on her couch to protect her from her jilted ex who’s been stalking her. Ridiculous, right? Not as ridiculous as Matthew actually agreeing to do it.

They end up sleeping together, which means that we’re in for another flashback from Matt, where we learn more about his relationship with Lisa. The two wake up, and suddenly, we’re in a flashback with the new Lisa. Turns out she lived across the way from the real Lisa, as a plain Jane type who took her in when she was fighting with some boyfriend or another, not Matt. Cut back to real time for a minute or two, just enough time for Luke now to have a flashback and reveal what we all already know: Luke is dating Alex, who is posing as the fake Lisa with Matt, while the real Lisa is still around somewhere. There’s one more flashback sequence, Luke calling Alex, Alex calling Matt, Lisa calling Luke, Luke calling Matt, an immense plot hole that would be more frustrating if anyone cared about the characters even remotely, all within the next fifteen minutes of movie.

Wicker Park tries so hard to be suspenseful. It wants the viewers to genuinely wonder if the stars will ever align and reunite Matt and Lisa. It wants you to hope Matt finds out why Lisa left in the first place, even though the nature of that occurrence makes very little sense. It wants you to feel like its horrifying hilarious, completely maudlin and ludicrous ending is a good payoff. It wants you to care about the characters, to want good things to happen for them. Wicker Park fails miserably in just about every one of these areas.

One of the main problems is the film’s structural gimmick. Wicker Park tries to be a sophisticated puzzle of a potboiler by throwing flashback after flashback after flashback at the viewer, messing with the timeline and doing just about anything else it can to be artsy and imitate its French progenitor, L’Aparrtement. The trouble with this approach is that by the time they start tying everything together, I didn’t care about the characters. Thus I really didn’t care what happened to them, never mind the fact that it completely undermines any suspense, since we know what eventually happened to Lisa. There’s no looming threat.

The other issue is that with all of the flashbacks, it seems like someone lost track of the actual movie. By the time the movie ends, the beginning doesn’t make any sense at all, partly because we know Matt has seen Luke before two years ago, and the conversation we now know Lisa has, isn’t the conversation Matt originally overhears in the phone booth. It’s not even close. It’s like the script supervisor just gave up. There’s something to learn here for young screenwriters: frustratingly convoluted does not equal sophisticated or clever.

Another hindrance that besets Wicker Park from a believability standpoint is that Josh Hartnett is a good looking guy. My wife thinks he’s cute, my younger female relatives seem to report he is “totally hot,” and he’s on the cover of magazines as a sex symbol. Matthew’s behavior is simply not the behavior of a good looking person, especially in the movie world. Matthew would perhaps pine for Lisa for a while, but he is good looking enough to be entirely over her two years down the line, because he’d have been with other women more beautiful than she. Hartnett is cast because his looks will attract people to the poster; the story would have been better served with a homelier guy in Matt’s role. When a guy is scoring over his head and it ends as Matt and Lisa’s relationship did, then I’d believe the guy in question would always have it in his mind, no matter how much time had passed or second-rate women he’d been with. It would cross his mind at least once a day. Then when something like what happened in the restaurant happened, I’d believe the guy was more inclined to drop everything to try to rekindle it, even if I had to believe that he was a little mentally imbalanced.

Speaking of Hartnett, while he might be good looking, he just isn’t a good actor. He’s simply terrible in Wicker Park, solidifying his role as the Next Keanu Reeves. From a dramatic standpoint, that isn’t good. His character calls for a balance of emotion and mental instability, to give us some reason to believe that he would do what we see him doing. With Hartnett, he looks like he’s doing it because that’s what the script tells him to do. His deliveries are forced and stilted, and he just looks like he feels out of place as Matt. We don’t ever get the idea that he’s really torn up enough to have the memory of Lisa seared into his head. He lacks charisma and screen presence, and just isn’t interesting enough to carry a movie on his own.

The lone bright spot - and another problem - for Wicker Park is the performance of Rose Byrne. Alex is obviously a very fragile, highly unstable and unpredictable personality, and Byrne plays her perfectly. She doesn’t make Alex into a complete lunatic with Matt when she finally gets him, and she doesn’t seem hateful or angry. I was worried that Alex would be the same character Erika Christensen in the equally awful but far more entertaining Swimfan. She’s not in a shower cutting herself, or shaving her head, or aping through other antics meant to imply insanity. Since she’s so understated in her derangement, I found it easier to identify with her, so much so that she becomes the most sympathetic and interesting character. Granted, her character is written with serious narrative flaws, like what was with her plain Jane / beautiful woman transformation at the drop of a hat, but Byrne’s performance shines in spite of them.

Not to restate the obvious, but Wicker Park is a terrible movie, made more terrible by its pretentious attempts to be artsy, poignant and suspenseful. This is a failure of the most aggravating magnitude for a movie: it’s not bad enough to be entertaining as a farce, but it’s far from good enough to be remotely interesting. And it has Matt Lillard in it. As usual, that means ‘avoid.’ You’ll never get the two hours back.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus C-

Wicker Park appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD and has been anamorphically enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Once again, we run into a DVD that’s impossible to heap technical superlatives upon, but doesn’t call for any serious derision, either. Wicker Park looks as good as it’s supposed to, with only a couple of minor errors.

The film takes its ‘artsiness’ from camera rather than color, so the modern, every day sort of color palette doesn’t present any real challenges for the medium. The most visually impressive scenes are the ones actually in Wicker Park, particularly the daytime ones. The high contrast of the bright white Chicago snowflakes and the sun glaring through Matthew’s breath as he waits for Lisa are outstandingly clear, and really give a visual sense of just how cold a Midwest winter can be. The picture responds well to the various night time exterior tests the movie runs through. Fleshtones are consistent and well-balanced, and small background detail is crisp and clear. In the area of problems, I noticed in chapter twelve that the edges around the actors’ faces appeared a little bit harsh, and that toward the film’s merciful, guffaw-inducing end, there were instances of negative artifacting and mosquito noise starting to crop up. These flaws were minor, and probably not noticeable under less intense scrutiny. Overall, Wicker Park is an acceptable if somewhat unexciting presentation.

I fully expected the same tediously average results from Wicker Park’s audio track, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Movies like this one generally don’t feature car chases or explosions or, sadly, zombies to liven up the sonic stage and wake up the rear channels. I was pleasantly surprised to find Wicker Park’s very imaginative and well-utilized track surround mix that’s quite effective.

While there aren’t elements within the movie to force the back stage into activity, the disc mines some of the more interesting audio from subtle sources. There are a few fine lateral forward pans, mainly from passing cars and people in busy thoroughfares. The rear channels handle some of the activity in the far background, like the weather effects in chapter seven or the sirens swirling in chapter ten. One of the more interesting audio effects is in chapter twelve, during a hallucinatory flashback, as the voices in a character’s head swirl around the stage. The only element that isn’t used is the LFE channel, but that’s a difficult speaker to sort of “force” into use.

Wicker Park’s supplemental package starts with a commentary track featuring director Paul McGuigan and star Josh Hartnett. I’ve never been a big fan of the commentary track, mainly because of tracks like this one. It’s just as boring as the movie, it doesn’t have anything even remotely interesting to say, and yet the participants are so impressed with the product. The track features several of my pet peeves in regards to commentaries, too, starting with McGuigan being given to throw out overly technical details about lens size and film methods. It’s not something I think a majority of viewers really care to understand, as a viewer, and only serves to reinforce the film’s self-impression.

The track catches the peeve chord a second time by being surprisingly gappy in many, many spots, far too often for a multiple participant track. Generally it isn’t a good sign that neither of these two can find something to talk about regarding the film. When these two aren’t talking about how great everyone in the movie is (“There’s the brilliant Matthew Lillard” and yes, that’s an actual quote), the majority of the conversation has to do with complaining about how cold it was filming in Montreal. Yeah, it’s a tough life you movie folks lead. Sorry, not everyplace is Aruba. When talk turns to the actual movie, McGuigan talks about the non-linear narrative as if he’d made Pulp Fiction. Hartnett had my favorite lines, describing in his best “artiste” voice that Wicker Park is “loose, but tight” and saying that from scene to scene, it was like a different movie. He didn’t add that each one of those movies was crap.

The disc contains ten appropriately boring ten deleted scenes. For some reason, there’s no commentary track recorded for these scenes, which seems odd considering they recorded one for the feature. It’s not absolutely necessary, because it’s easy to tell why most of them were deleted, because they seem to exist only to extend an already overlong movie. I would have liked to hear why they were filmed in the first place, though. The one scene that annoyed me most is the one with the rehearsal of the bizarre production of “Twelfth Night.” The entire three minute sequence is still in the actual movie, but the last two seconds feature Lillard giving the director the finger behind his back. Did we really need to rewatch the whole scene?

From there, the bonus materials wrap up pretty quickly, something I wish the stupid film had done. A one minute, forty five second gag reel appears on the disc, one that makes me rethink my wish that a gag reel be included on more discs, or at least clarify it: funny gag reels should be included on more discs. Useless ones like this one should just be in the garbage. The disc then features a pretty bad music video for some horrible funk-folk-electro-pop cover of the Phil Collins mid-Eighties ballad “Against all Odds” from the film’s soundtrack. This is apparently the big trend now, cover some song from the eighties that people will say “Wow, Band X is singing a song by Artist Y? Now that’s original!” Korn’s dopey “Word Up” is only the most recent incident. I’m waiting for the Ashlee Simpson rockin’ cover of Spandau Ballet.

Back to Wicker Park, we have another of my least favorite extras, the thirty-three image photo gallery. Can someone please point me in the direction of the DVD where a photo gallery provided some point of interest? Unless the pictures are candids of Rose Byrne and Diane Kruger making out in a trailer, these can be left off. Finally, the 110-second theatrical trailer shows exactly why these things aren’t to be trusted. I guess it’s a successful trailer, because it makes the movie actually look good. With that, the bonus package ends. I’d complain about the lack of imagination, quantity and quality, but the grade says it all, and really, do I think the DVD consumer should be exposed to any more of Wicker Park?

If it isn’t clear enough by the time you’ve read all the way down to this point, I absolutely hated Wicker Park, both as a movie and as a DVD, in spite of the decent technical marks. As always, the movie is the deciding factor when purchasing a disc, and in that regard, Wicker Park had only Rose Byrne’s performance to redeem itself. The rest of the movie is complete and utter bunk. If you must see Wicker Park, wait until it’s on basic cable, because with a cruddy film and a disposable extras package, this disc isn’t even worth renting.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 15
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