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Movie Review: Wicker Park

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Wicker Park turned out a lot different from what I expected. From the trailers I expected a rather straight forward tale of a lost love with some mistaken identity, what I got was a story that jumped between the present and flashback and had enough twists and turns that if you’re not paying attention it will be easy to loose track of where you are. Even if you do pay attention there is a good possibility that you won’t be sure where you are half the time. It took quite an effort to keep track, and I was lost more than a couple of times.

Josh Hartnett stars as Matthew, a photographer turned advertising agent who has recently moved back to his hometown with his fiancee. At a meeting with some clients from China, Matthew thinks he sees a past love, Lisa. At this point, he drops everything, including his trip to China, to search for this woman. To aid him in his search, he has hooked up with his old friend, Luke (Matthew Lillard). Around this time, Matthew meets the woman he’s been following, her name is Lisa, but it’s not the Lisa he thought he was looking for. From this point onward the plot becomes a gargantuan labyrinth of assumed identities, past relationships, and miscommunication.

I can’t really go into to much more detail without giving away everything, or nothing. It flips back on itself from multiple perspectives twisting the viewer through different time frames and interpretations. Many times I thought I was watching a flashback which was actually the present, and vice versa. I was drawn into the web that director Paul Mcguigan created here, although I think it may take another viewing or two to see if there was any “cheating” done.

I think that this is the first test of Josh Hartnett as an actor, up to now his roles have been in ensembles or in overblown action films which are bigger than the actors contained within. And I think he has the potential for having a lasting career. He does a good job delivering a range of emotions in this film, convincing you of what he is going through. The rest of the cast does well too, it was actually good seeing Matthew Lillard playing something other than a teenager or Shaggy! The women in the film have been onscreen together earlier this summer, Troy, where Diane Kruger(Lisa) played Helen of Troy, and Rose Byrne(Alex) was Briseis. Here they are reunited in a love quadrangle where two of the participants are unaware of the others.

The story isn’t perfect, or rather it is perfectly contrived. The whole film is based upon two people not meeting. There are so many phone calls at just the wrong time, or being in the right place at the wrong time. There are so many near misses, it takes a bit of believability away from it. The other problem was that with all the flip flops between present and the past that it is hard to remember where you are, and the lack of any indicator how long ago the past was until late in the movie, the time frame was indistinguishable.

For all of the problems the movie had, it was a great ride. It was so implausible, yet so entertaining that I was able to forgive many of its shortcomings. The performances are all good, the plotting was tightly written, and above all, I found the characters to be believable. I was pleasantly surprised at how good this move was.

Recommended.

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