American remakes of other nation’s films can be nasty affairs – look at the recent shocking attempt at retelling our very own classic bit of cinema, Get Carter for example. Wicker Park is a very tiring and lame remodel of the excellent 1996 French film L’Appartement, written and directed by Gilles Mimouni. Looking at the box-office ticket figures and lack of critical applause in the States, MGM probably wish they’d have left it in France.
Josh Hartnett plays Matthew, a handsome, young but successful advertising executive based in Chicago. Two years ago, his girlfriend Lisa (Diane Kruger) mysteriously vanished. Matthew attempts to put his life back together with another woman, but as he dines with his fianc he spots Lisa in the same restaurant.
Matthew puts a work-related trip to China, his career and his recent engagement on hold as he obsessively searches for Lisa. On this emotional and relentless journey he meets another woman called Lisa, whose real name is actually Alex (Rose Byrne) and who is dating his best friend Luke (Matthew Lillard). Mathew’s journey becomes a confusing and bizarre trip into his and other people’s mental states as he questions what has actually happen over the past couple of years in his life.
Good mystery stories have your mind compulsively ticking as to the origin of the crime – it’s an audience participation game, we like to guess who did it’. Wicker Park’s problem is that it gets itself so confused trying to be clever that all interest in the story disappears until the ending when the mystery unravels and everything is settled.
There is very little emotional attachment to the characters, especially Matthew whose eyes seem almost vacant throughout the picture. Josh Hartnett handles his role as though he doesn’t know what to with it, and perhaps even with this shallow part he is out of his depth. It’s a fairly shoddy performance but teenage girls will probably love it, which may explain the 12A rating.
Newcomer Diane Kruger is incredibly sexy but actually does very little with her appeal. Matthew Lillard’s character meanwhile is an arrogant young store owner who is irritating more than amusing. For a film to have so many unlikable and not very interesting characters is practically death by idiocy.
The most interesting person is Alex, the strange unsettled girlfriend of Luke. As the story slowly progresses, Rose Byrne as Alex quickly becomes the reason why you’d want to persist watching it.
Paul McGuigan’s direction is very mundane yet the editing is sharp – there are lots of flashbacks, quick pans and more than a few frantic cuts. Yet the whole film has a pretentious and censored TV movie feel that is aired before 10pm: the sex scenes are dull, there is no murder and simply no intrigue.
While the story feels like it is derived from a cheap paperback novel, L’Appartement handled itself with a deep Hichcockian tone and a professional manner. Of course, there were mind-bogglingly silly moments but it kept the viewer on edge and involved. Wicker Park does very little but bore you.
With more contortions and turns than a drunken game of Twister, Wicker Park is a highly unlikable, uninteresting and contrived remake of an intriguing and provocative piece of contemporary European cinema.