The American assault on foreign movies continues with
“Wicker Park,” a bland remake of the 1995 French
thriller, “L’Appartement,” that somehow manages
to upend “Exorcist: The Beginning” as the worst film of
the year.

Josh Hartnett stars as a young and engaged investment banker who
falls back in love with Lisa, a Czech dancer played by Diane
Kruger, who left him two years earlier under ominous circumstances.
After some questionable detective work, Hartnett finds an apartment
thought to be Kruger’s, only to find that it belongs to a
different Lisa, a shy, clingy nurse played by Rose Byrne. Confused,
Hartnett continues to search for Kruger, pushed by flashbacks to
uncover the truth about her disappearance.

“Wicker Park” is essentially a neutered “Fatal
Attraction,” without the sex and violence that make the
romantic thriller genre viewable. Pretentious throughout, the film
unveils the main characters’ supposed artistic significance
through montages featuring Hartnett taking photographs, Kruger
dancing and Byrne acting. Omitting the tried and tested aesthetics
of the genre to instead exploit art to clarify the
characters’ intellectual depth is a puzzling move that
backfires. The characters in this film are fundamentally bad
people. Hartnett is a whiny yuppie who abandons his fiancee
(Jessica Pare) for a woman who left him two years earlier. The
other characters in the film share similar traits of selfishness
and disregard for others, which are never acknowledged or used to
director Paul McGuigan’s (“The Acid House”)
advantage. No characters seem to have any significant or redeeming
qualities and therefore there is nothing at risk by the end of the
movie.

While the characters’ coarse personalities dissolve the
emotional impact of the climax, the absence of any action also
hurts the film’s potential. Even the arguments in
“Wicker Park” are dealt with indirectly. During every
conflict, one of the characters withdraws to the background or
addresses the situation passively. A mysterious man stalks Kruger
and shows up on several occasions without explanation, but never
does anything and vanishes just as randomly as he appears.

These incongruities attest to how poorly “Wicker
Park” was made. The plot is simply incomprehensible and
senseless. Not once does Hartnett pick up the phone and call Kruger
or her dance company and nothing is explained in real-time.
Instead, McGuigan opts to tell the bulk of the story in flashbacks.
The cinematography relies on many hackneyed shots of long and dark
corridors, accompanied by bad ambient music, to set mood. Neither
Byrne nor Kruger has any chemistry with Hartnett, and all three put
in sub-par performances. Matthew Lillard, who plays
Hartnett’s friend, is the film’s one saving grace,
providing decent comic relief throughout. At one point, he tells
Hartnett that love “makes you more inarticulate than
usual,” which should have been a clue for the filmmakers to
abandon the project outright.

 

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars.

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