Movies — Wicker Park (PG-13)

Josh Harnett and his Martha Graham-esque lady-love pirouette around each other, without ever really meeting, in the lost-love romance Wicker Park.

Matthew (Harnett) is an ad guy about to close two big deals—one with a Chinese business interest and one with his colleague (Jessica Pare), to whom he’s strongly considering becoming engaged. On the eve of a trip to Shanghai, however, he thinks he sees Lisa (Diane Kruger), a woman he dated and loved two years ago. Their inexplicable break-up caused him to move from Chicago to New York. Now back in Chicago, he decides to put off the trip for a few days and investigate this could-be Lisa sighting. He has a few things to work from—he has a hotel key he believes is hers and he leaves a note at the bar where he may or may not have seen her.

He needs help in his craziness, of course, and someone to help us in the audience get a little exposition, so Matthew turns to Luke (Matthew Lillard), a friend from his previous residence in Chicago. Luke is dating a neurotic actress named Alex (Rose Bryne) who seems to take an extraordinary interest in Matt’s tale of searching for lost love.

As the story of Matthew’s search unfolds, so does the back story of his relationship with Lisa. Two years ago when they meet, he was an aspiring photographer and she was a dancer. He fell stupid in love with her at first sight and followed her long before he actually met her. When they did eventually meet, they hit it off and seemed like they would become one of those music-by-Coldplay-accompanied True Loves. However, when Matthew asked Lisa to move in with him, she seems to freak out and then disappears. Understandably hurt at the time, Matthew is now more curious than angry and desperately wants to reconnect with her, perhaps out of a feeling of entrapment by his current relationship more than anything else.

At a certain point, the narrative of Wicker Park stops moving forward and we begin to see the same scenes played over and over again from different perspectives. Unfortunately, the more tightly it weaves its characters together, the more this story starts to fall apart. A few clues early on in the movie point to both why this will happen and how—there is a very obvious gun in the first act that seems to take forever to go off. The entire story is built on chance encounters and obsessive loves. But the plot also requires a stringent adherence to a lack of sense. For a group of people so interconnected, it only works if none of them ever meet. Which, when you consider all the obsessive I-want-to-know-everything-about-you adoration, seems rather improbable.

To keep the story going, the movie depends on an equal amount of dunderheadedness from the audience. Specifically, for this movie to remain suspenseful we are required to forget everything we have learned in a previous scene. Remember and you are doomed to a mounting frustration at the movie for not realizing that we get it already.

About halfway through the movie I realized something about Matthew Lillard that points to this movie’s other big problem (a successively less interesting story being the first big hitch in its giddyup). Lillard is by far the actor turning in the best performance of this movie. Lillard. The guy from Scream. When he’s your movie’s shining star, you know the rest of your cast is really falling down on the job.

- Amy Diaz 

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