Matthew (Josh Hartnett, "Hollywood Homicide") is a NYC investment banker who is nervous about a major business trip to China he is taking that evening. At dinner with his fiancee (Jessica Pare, "Lost and Delirious") and her brother - his boss - Matthew thinks he spies Lisa (Diane Kruger, "Troy"), the love of his life who mysteriously left him two years prior. Matthew entangles himself in a web of lies as he drops everything to try and find the woman he last saw in "Wicker Park."
This hare-brained romantic thriller plays like "Single White Female" as if directed by a Brian DePalma wannabe who lacks DePalma's sense of humor. No amount of fancy camera work (Cinematographer Peter Sova, "The Reckoning") or multi-layered symbolism can suppress the inadvertent hilarity this poorly acted film evokes - it's one of those 'so bad it's almost good' types of movies.
After losing Lisa in Belluci's (the restaurant is named after the original French film's star, Monica), Matthew begins to follow a series of clues, beginning with a hotel keycard. Letting himself into room 679 of the Drake, Matthew finds his beloved's silver compact before succumbing to the sleeping pill given to him by fiancee Becky to sooth his flying jitters (one of the film's many indulgences in overplotting). Awakening the next morning alone, he quickly stuffs a newspaper clipping about a funeral into his pocket and runs to his buddy Luke's (Matthew Lillard, "Without a Paddle") shoe store (Lady Dragon shoes, perhaps a guilty reference to the trip he hasn't taken) to beg to borrow his car. From the funeral, he follows a man, Daniel (Christopher Cousins, "For the Love of the Game"), who leads him to an apartment where he leaves a key. Breaking and entering once more, Matthew finds Lisa's size 8 1/2 shoes in the bedroom, but the occupant of the apartment is another woman named Lisa (Rose Byrne, "Troy") who begs him to stay because she's afraid of ex-lover Daniel (who is seen once crying outside of her window, only to disappear from the film like a phantom).
Matthew's reliance on Luke's car becomes a problem when he makes Luke miss a date with Alex, an actress who Luke is unusually desperate for Matthew to meet. She's starring in a woefully conceived off-Broadway adaptation of Shakespeare's identity switching romantic comedy "As You Like It" (note her own uni-gender name) where she appears in elaborate Kabuki-style makeup.
In adapting Gilles Mimouni's original French screenplay for "L'Appartement," Brandon Boyce (of the underrated "Apt Pupil") mixes his identity metaphors with fairy tale references (Cinderella style shoe matching and "Alice in Wonderland's" trip down the rabbit hole) and Asian spicing, but the story's constant flashing back and forward makes for a trippy hash that at one point has Matthew watching video which a later scene reveals has not even been left with him yet. Director Paul McGuigan ("Gangster No. 1," "The Reckoning") fails to get any semblance of romantic connection out of his actors with the once promising Hartnett never diverging from furrowed brow. Diane Kruger, who merely had to stand around and look good in her "Troy" debut as Helen, here barely manages that, appearing like a wanner version of "Femme Fatale's" Rebecca Romjin-Stamos. Rose Byrne, who had a more auspicious turn in "Troy" as Achilles' love slave, glazes over for her psycho role here. Stefanie Buxton ("Timeline") as an American Airlines ticket agent has more personality than either of the two female leads and Jessica Pare is a victim of a plot that paints her sinisterly manipulative before cruelly dismissing her. Only the endearingly goofy Matthew Lillard lights up the screen as Hartnett's needy sidekick.
"Wicker Park" is a romantic thriller devoid of romance, but it does thrill with the anticipation of how over the top the filmmakers' next move will be. If it weren't for its drippy denouement, it might have been a camp classic.
Robin's review coming soon!
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