Josh Hartnett and two beautiful actresses from "Troy" star in the amazingly overlooked "Wicker Park," a movie that was advertised as a thriller but is actually a complicated romantic drama.
Hartnett stars as Matthew, an engaged businessman who, one day, thinks he sees his long lost love, Lisa, played by Diane Kruger, in a restaurant. He soon finds himself doing incredibly out-of-character things as he tries to track her down, but finally discovers he was on the wrong track - or so he thinks. He meets Lisa, only it isn't the Lisa he once knew (this Lisa is played by Rose Byrne. They quickly become involved, but is she hiding something? (Of course, the answer is "yes.")
The previews for "Wicker Park" were mightily deceiving, as they made out the lies Byrne's character tells into what appeared to be a stalker obsession. The movie was marketed as a thriller, but apparently no one was interested in seeing a thriller as the film tanked at the box office and opened to horrendous reviews.
Whatever those "other" critics saw, it couldn't have been the same "Wicker Park" I watched. The movie is intriguing, complicated and ultimately romantic, but also mildly tense to keep the guys entertained. Though some of the things the characters do are slightly extreme, the movie really keeps you guessing as to what's going to happen next. After the first act, the plot does lose a bit of its allure as everything becomes a little clearer. Still, the final two acts continue to keep the ending secret, as it's really hard to tell whether it will end happily.
As far as the filmmaking goes, "Wicker Park" is a curious specimen. It really doesn't conform to Hollywood norms as it uses some minor camera tricks, to mixed results, and lots and lots of flashbacks. Paul McGuigan, the director, continues to add onto earlier scenes later in the movie as we see the same moments from different characters' perspectives. If you like that kind of storytelling technique then you should enjoy "Wicker Park." The movie does become a bit confusing at times as the director doesn't always make it clear whether we're watching a flashback or present day, but for the most part it's an easy ride.
The acting is also pretty good. Hartnett carries the movie well. Byrne is probably the best as she gets the most interesting and dynamic role of the bunch. Kruger, in a more limited role, delivers her best performance to date (she really wasn't very impressive in either "Troy" or "National Treasure"). Matthew Lillard is also surprisingly low-key and this is easily his most likeable role in a long time.
"Wicker Park" is a compelling romantic drama that edges into thriller territory at times, but more than anything else just works with the careful execution of complicated storytelling. "Wicker Park" easily classifies as one of the most overlooked movies of 2004.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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