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Wicker Park (2004)

Passion never dies.

Directed by:

Paul McGuigan

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 115 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12a

Country: United States

It’s a crying shame that a film with as much going for it as ‘Wicker Park’ has been so poorly cast. It’s a story that I would say is aimed at a fairly mature audience, but features a list of actors whose appeal is likely to be limited only to younger, mid-teen viewers. You’ve got Josh Hartnett, the cardboard-faced hero of rank-rotten rom-com 40 Days and 40 Nights and history-for-dummies blockbuster Pearl Harbour. There’s Matthew Lillard, horribly-hyperactive star of the likes of Scream and ‘Scooby Doo’ and easily one of the most irritating men in Hollywood today. And then there’s Diane Kruger, the German actress who, in her portrayal of Helen, was the only thing in Troy more wooden than the horse. Only Rose Byrne might be exempt, given her impressive performances in I Capture the Castle and Troy – but she’s yet to make a name for herself, so hardly counts as a major draw either.

And so, one of the year’s more interesting movies looks destined, unfortunately, to pass many people by. It’s about young businessman Matthew (Hartnett), who’s about to make an honest woman of girlfriend Rebecca (Jessica Pare), until a brief glimpse of old flame Lisa (Kruger) turns his life upside down. He tells his unknowing other-half an elaorate porky about being off to a conference in China and, with the help of best bud Luke (Lillard), goes on the hunt for the woman he realises is still the love of his life. Altogether now: awwwwww!

It would be unfair of me to go into the rest of what it’s about in too much detail, as there are too many twists and turns to risk giving away. Based on the little-known French picture ‘L’Appartement’, the film is a chronological head-jam, skipping backwards and forwards in time, often providing little clue as to whether we’re supposed to be watching the past or the present. It’s confusing, but deliberately so, as it makes the whole thing all the more impressive when things eventually start to come together.

Of course, some deep, deep suspension of disbelief is required to make it through the two hours without some repeated scoffing, as it all relies pretty heavily on coincidences, unlikelihoods, and some downright silliness. But it’s one of the few films since ‘Pulp Fiction’ to use non-linear story-telling to enhance its own narrative, rather than simply for the sake of appearing stylish. Scottish director Paul McGuigan, whose CV includes ’The Acid House’ and ‘Gangster No. 1’ makes a good job of what must have been a tough film to helm – in the wrong hands it could easily have turned out a jumbled mess – and the result is an involving, if slightly poorly-performed, success.

It's Got: Diane Kruger delivering the line “Take my picture – I feel beautiful tonight!” Modesty gets you everywhere.

It Needs: A considerably stronger cast. With the exception of Byrne – who’s one to look out for in the future – this bunch struggle to pull it off.

Alternatives:

Go, L'Appartement, Vanilla Sky

Summary

Expertly-directed but sadly mis-cast, this engaging romantic thriller brings us less a love triangle than a love dodecahedron – so make sure you’re paying attention if you don’t want to end up lost!

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