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"Wicker Park"

Directed by Paul McGuigan.
Written by Brandon Boyce.  Based on the film "L'Appartement" by Gilles Mimouni.
Starring Josh Hartnett, Matthew Lillard, Rose Byrne and Diane Kruger.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  9/6/04


When I first saw trailers for it, I thought "Wicker Park"--the new Josh Hartnett romance/mystery flick--was going to blow.  So, I spent most of my afternoon today in the theater with this thing waiting for the suckage to begin.

But, surprisingly, it never comes.  Hartnett plays Matthew, an ad executive that is trying to pick out a ring for his longtime girlfriend (Jessica Paré) when the film opens.  He's having a hard time not only because of the cost of buying a nice ring these days...more importantly, he's still in love with his old flame Lisa (Diane Kruger, from "Troy"), who left him after two intense months and Matty Boy still hasn't gotten over her.  Over dinner one night, Matt thinks that he sees Lisa leaving the restaurant he's dining in...and, he spends the rest of the flick trying to track her down, with the help of his good buddy Luke (Matthew Lillard).

Roughly halfway through the mystery, we meet another girl named Lisa (Rose Byrne, also from "Troy"), who shares many of the same traits as Matt's old flame, but looks completely different.  Whoa, what's going on here?  Twists and turns later, we get an ending, which...well, I'll leave that to you.

Let me first say that I don't think Hartnett is right for this part; I like him, and have liked him in his other films ("40 Days and 40 Nights", for example), but in this part--some shades of which were in the above romantic comedy--he just comes off as cheesy, and for some stretches you just don't buy his character, if that makes any sense.  In particular, the flashback scenes featuring the Matt/Lisa #1 courtship are plain ol' silly...the unintentional comedy of watching Matt fawn over putting shoes on Lisa's feet is bad, just bad!  Off the top of my head, Colin Farrell could do this 30 times better, but I doubt the Irishman would have taken a part in a French flick remake of this caliber.  Anyway, Hartnett is probably my main beef with "Wicker Park."

The rest is surprisingly engaging.  For a while, it's kind of fun watching Matt try to figure out what happened with his relationship with Lisa #1...and, naturally, it's fun watching what will happen with Lisa #2.  Lillard provides his continuing high level of sidekickness, once again giving us the occasionally funny line to bridge the serious side of the main plot.  Both of the female leads give us enough shades of their characters to give them life; for reasons that you will see when you watch the film, I thought that Byrne gives a great performance given the script conditions she is working under.

Besides Hartnett, the other major problem with "Wicker Park" comes in its last 20 minutes; once you are told what is really going on here, there are way too many little bits to cover, so that we end up backtracking a lot more than I liked.  I didn't mind the filmmakers giving us the real skinny with so much running time left; it just takes them a looonnnnngggg time to spell it all out, complete with a revisiting of almost every other scene in the film's first hour.  After the fourth or fifth one, I was like


but, sadly, they didn't consult me when writing the film.  I would love to see the French version of the film (called "L'Appartement"), because certainly it is better than the remake, as these things always seem to be.  For $6, "Wicker Park" is not a bad deal.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09