Retro Movie Review: 'Wicker Park' (2004)

When “Wicker Park” was released, the trailers had hinted it was a taut sexual thriller, in the vein of Adrian Lyne's wheelhouse. Well, this was not that kind of movie and to be fair, it could not compete on that level, given its PG-13 rating. All of the provocative illusions are actually nothing.

This would be better described as an indie romance; it’s not erotic in the least bit. It’s not a thriller either. It’s a romantic drama that treads on the loose strings of a Romeo and Juliet-type miscommunication.

Told in a non-linear format, “Wicker Park” is the tale of two 20-somethings whose love at first sight connection is tested when Lisa (Diane Kruger) seemingly disappears from Matthew’s (Josh Hartnett) life. Due in part to the way the story is plotted out; there is no time to invest in this relationship.

Why should the audience care? Plus, the intrigue surrounding Lisa’s disappearance is hinted as being mysteriously diabolical and that whole angle to the story falls flat.

The essential element the film desperately needed since it was a romance, is a romance, a love story. The relationship between Lisa and Matthew is strictly born out of lust. That kind of connection surviving for an extended length of time tries all probability. Matthew consistently loses romantic hero points throughout the movie, never fitting the bill of a devoted monogamist or a romantic hero, as a result.

So much of the film focuses on this so-called “love story” and yet there is no real time spent on their connection. Why they are in love is unanswered. The audience is left with the presumed chemistry of the leads to fill the void. Hartnett and Kruger’s chemistry is serviceable but in no way so spellbinding that it can be solely relied upon.

Josh Hartnett’s performance is alright. There always seems to be this potential behind his performance and yet it never amounts to anything. He goes through all of the motions of being the jaded, lovelorn and brooding good guy but all of it hits dull notes.

Diane Kruger is stunningly beautiful, bringing the intriguing European “femme fatale” to life. She emits such a genuinely sweet flavor to the role that you can’t really buy her as a temptress. Her performance sells you on why Matthew is interested in her and that is a key component of the film.

Rose Byrne gives the most impressive turn in the film, as she goes full throttle in a role that she doesn’t allow to get pigeonholed. She plays on your interest and gives an intricate performance that allows her to transcend any one label; it is a quintessential grey performance. Even when it’s over, there are lingering questions that will nag at you, not because the script doesn’t answer them, but because her performance provokes deeper consideration.

When all is said and done, “Wicker Park” is not as advertised. It’s closer to 2005’s “A Lot Like Love” than “9 ½ Weeks”. The ending, while rushed, comes to fruition in a really beautiful way. Sadly, the rest of the movie doesn’t match its quality. Rating: 6.3/10

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