Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Wicker Park



USA 2004 : Paul McGuigan : 114 mins

Stylish but wildly over-convoluted would-be-thriller Wicker Park finished filming back in March 2003, but has been an inexplicably long time reaching the big screen: so long, in fact, that the opening credits “introduce” Diane Kruger,” despite her having made Ms Kruger made a fair-sized splash months ago as Helen of Troy. Many critics – not quite grasping the subtleties of that underrated production – reckoned Kruger made a somewhat colourless Trojan queen, and instead heaped praise on the unheralded Rose Byrne for her performance as feisty slave-girl Briseis. Kruger would be forgiven for harbouring less than sisterly feelings towards Byrne, who once again upstages her more glamorous colleague in this remake of French award-winner L’Appartement (1996).

Admirers of the original are advised to steer well clear of this disappointing Hollywood version, which transplants the action to the eponymous, wintry Chicago suburb despite the fact that nearly all shooting took place in Toronto. Such geographical sleight-of-hand is standard penny-pinching practice these days, and the film has many more serious flaws to contend with. The Scottish director (Gangster No.1, The Reckoning) makes the wintry picture look just fine, judiciously deploying some of the gloomier examples of recent Brit-Pop – but he can’t salvage Brandon Boyce’s script, which gets itself twisted into such complicated knots that most audiences will be left scratching their heads in bemused puzzlement.

Chicago native Matt (Josh Hartnett) returns home after two years in Manhattan, bringing with him fiancee Rebecca (Jessica Pare). This new relationship has enabled him to finally move on from a disastrous previous affair with ballet-dancer Lisa (Kruger), but once back in Chicago memories of his former love start to resurface. When he tries to track her down, aided by easygoing former schoolfriend Luke (Matthew Lillard), the trail leads only to the mysterious, seemingly shy Alex (Byrne). At which point the coincidences, contrivances and implausibilities start to spiral exponentially, and a series of interconnected flashbacks sends the narrative spinning into a black hole of confusion from which it never emerges. “I have no idea what you’re talking about!” sputters Luke in frustration, and unfortunately we know exactly how he feels.

31st August, 2004
(seen 6th June : Vue, Leicester : press show – CinemaDays event)

by Neil Young