Dir. Paul McGuigan, 2004, USA, 115 mins
Josh Hartnett, Rose Byrne, Matthew Lillard, Diane Kruger
Wicker Park, a remake of Gilles Mimouni's stylish 1996 thriller L'Appartement, tells the story of Matthew (Hartnett) and Lisa (Kruger), a couple broken up under unexplained circumstances which Matthew, after two years building another life in another city, still hasn't come to terms with. When Matthew, now a high flying advertising executive living in New York with his new fiancé, returns to his old haunts in the Wicker Park area of Chicago, he comes face to face with the ghosts that haunt his past, and slowly comes to realise there were more ghosts than he thought.
There are two immediate problems with this film, the first being that inevitable comparisons with the infinitely slicker original film will almost certainly leave Wicker Park looking pale and uninteresting by comparison - after all, L'Appartement brought together on screen for the first time the electrifying coupling of Europe 's first couple, Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci. And while Hartnett is easy on the eye, and Diane Kruger's face is finely structured enough to have launched a thousand ships in Troy, in Wicker Park the few moments in which they share the screen badly lack the chemistry to make Matthew's desperate search for lost love believable. The second problem is that, even having missed the original, two seconds of having seen the trailer for this film will tell you everything you need to know about the motives of every single character, leaving the notions of thrill and suspense hanging uselessly in the air as you fill in the blanks for yourself.
Visually, the frenetic structure and camerawork of Wicker Park is slickly done, perhaps in homage to the original, and the threads of the mysterious circumstances of Lisa's disappearance are woven in an intricate, if often over-explained way. Hartnett is in every scene, and admirably carries the film, playing the straight man to Matthew Lillard's infinitely more beguiling Ted with characteristic graciousness. Diane Kruger equally allows the slightly bland character of Lisa to melt into a phantom that haunts the film, making way for Rose Byrne's Alex to shine as the obsessive best friend fixated on the wrong man. Whilst Byrne is excellent as the potentially psychotic Alex, again later in the film we are allowed to witness a paint-by-numbers explanation of why she acts the way she does. A trick that does nothing to boost the profile of the character in the psycho movie hall of fame that includes greats like Glenn Close's Fatal Attraction bunny boiler.
Although not an excruciating way to spend 100 minutes, Wicker Park is deeply unsatisfying as a thriller, unmotivating as a frightener, and as a mystery is self revealing at every turn, even where it thinks it's being subtle. Cynics, as always, should veer for the original.