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Wicker Park (2004)
Directed by Paul McGuigan Screenplay by Brandon Boyce
Before I begin, I’ll go ahead and state that I usually don’t prefer Josh Hartnett as an Actor. But it just so happens that I do end up liking some movies that I have seen him, otherwise due to the story or Director attached. I was surprised to see that if it hadn’t been for 2 Fast 2 Furious, Paul Walker may have been the one in this role. Although I think I could see Ryan Phillippe being a more fitting choice after all this time.
Matthew (Hartnett) seems to have a hobby of taking photos, though seen speaking with a jeweler at several different engagement rings. Speaking of going on a trip for the next four days and nervous about making his company look good. Later running into old friend Luke, (Matthew Lillard; who was in everything in the early 2000s it seems) who hasn’t seen or heard from him in quite some time. Matthew’s explanation being he had met a girl and began working with her brother which kept him quite busy. We’re introduced to his fiance Rebecca (Jessica Pare) as things begin setting in with a cryptic tone as a mysterious woman is seen leaving in one instant. With Matthew hearing familiar sounds belonging to Lisa, (Diane Kruger) a lost love he hadn’t heard from in 2 years, almost chasing the ghost out of the restaurant. Flashbacks take over as we see him working for a video store and catching a glimpse of a face on a TV that he instantly feels a connection to. Seeing the girl from the video passing by, he follows her to a studio where she seems to take part in an interpretive dance routine (nicely shot scene with perfect music to back it). Brought back to present time, having found a hotel card with a key and room number inside. Is movie luck not the best thing ever?
What was supposed to turn into a trip to China becomes a quest of needing to fulfill thoughts of “what if’s.” Wandering into a hotel room with the hope of seeing Lisa to follow. Torn between thoughts of the past and the sleeping pill taken before his “flight,” he floats into yet another flashback. Of which he entered Luke’s store, revealing what little he knew about the dancer; as it seems she wasn’t too far behind. Catching him spy on her as she writes her number on a shoe box and asks him to call her whenever they had her size available. Along with the number, she leaves a note that says to meet her at a cafe later that night. (Guess he didn’t have to worry about following her anymore) After the cafe that night they make their way to Wicker Park for light conversation and a brief kiss before parting ways. Realizing the mistake he made after leaving, he races back to her place and upstairs when a knock at the door brings him back into the present.
Having no where to go, Luke offers a bit of backhanded advice. And lets his long time friend use his car with the only condition of bringing it back before 8 to attend a date with an actress he met recently. Of which Matthew arrives at a funeral for the wife of a man whose article was ripped to shreds in Lisa’s apartment. Who also knew of Lisa’s actual location and had left a note with a rose that Matthew witnessed nearby. Our curious bystander used his belt to retrieve the letter from underneath the door of which stated “he” had returned the keys like asked but would want to see her one last time. Naturally, Matthew does away with the note and replaces it with his own, running a tad late to an already upset Luke who said his night was ruined. That is, before receiving a call from his date who asks to speak with the friend that caused him to miss their date. Later, putting a face to a voice by catching Alex (Rose Byrne) in the middle of rehearsal for a play in which her character was in love with the lead. Asked to help receive the attention of another and the Director demanding for some passion behind her performance. Soon finding out Alex knew more than leading on for the given situation.
After being stood up at the park Matthew returns to Lisa’s apartment to snoop when he hears the front door open. Sneaking up to who he believes is…not Lisa, but someone claiming to have the same name, same everything. Asking about the man who had come by previously and who had been stalking her. Matthew says goodbye as “Lisa” tries to convince him to stay with the claim of being scared her stalker could return. Surprising him in the middle of the night and offering her body as he’s taken back to another passed memory of the last time he saw Lisa. Awaking the next morning to coffee and awkward conversation as she leaves for work as we take notice of what’s clouding her thoughts: she had been at the same restaurant the other night and was a friend of the real Lisa. Of course choosing to leave that part out while discussing the events of that night. It seems Alex had been living a double life, having met Lisa before Matthew and helping her out when the same man wouldn’t leave her alone. Drawn to her the way most others seemed to be; Alex giving into a Single White Female vibe through the rest of the movie.
I really liked how they integrated the present with the scenes of what had happened in the beginning. If you watch the movie a second time and pay attention (or just pay attention the first time around) you can see Alex in the background or hear her voice often. The whole story being that Alex had noticed and wanted to approach Matthew first (she had admired him from afar). Much in the same way he did to Lisa. Alex, having been friends with her already, seemed to get pushed to the side when they finally got together. So we have these three people consistently running in circles trying to find the other as we see them barely missing one another constantly. Alex wanting nothing more than to give this stranger her love, to give him anything, that he would bother to take in return. Never being noticed though desperately taunted by the situation and unable to take anymore. Acting out with heart but instead her whacked out “crazy lady”decided to take over.
Of which she does get caught up in. Everything begins coming together for Matthew, who decides to follow “Lisa” and finds her waiting at what must be, the only restaurant in town. She had went to meet Luke who had wanted his friend to meet the girl he wouldn’t stop talking about. The two share a cryptic conversation that completely goes over Luke’s head. Alex attempting some sort of explanation, used above for the title of the review, among a few other words that bring tears to them both. Lisa had sent out a message to have Matthew meet her as she was leaving for a dance tour. Rushing to the Airport to try and stop her and running right into his fiance, forgetting his plane was due back that same day. What do you say to the person you’ve been with for the past 2 years when your ex walks back into your life after disappearing? He tries his best and leaves it at that, finally noticing Lisa across the way sitting on the ground, searching for something in her bag. Coldplay cuing in the slow walk towards her as he holds back the tears in his eyes and kneels down behind her as she feels his presence and they embrace: the end.
Final Thoughts: I actually thought this was a well done romantic thriller and I didn’t think I would be able to use those two together quite honestly. The ending may seem a bit unfinished but that’s really as far as they needed to take the story. The two female leads were fantastic, emphasis on Rose Byrne. I have yet to find another person who remembers her in this film but she did a good job holding the tone of “psychotic” bystander. A different kind of cat and mouse pursuit working well in all of its elements favor’s. I would have liked to see how different the movie would have been had a different male lead been in its place; not to say that Hartnett was bad necessarily. I just can’t see the big deal about him, sorry! Certainly worth a watch or two; a nice story line that is constantly taking you back into the past and peaking at some curiosity or whether they would actually find each other. Though I suppose I ruined that for you by now…still worth a watch.