Wicker Park (December 22/04)
That Wicker Park becomes as engrossing as it does is particularly shocking, given the almost interminable opening hour (which revolves almost exclusively around a character played by Josh Hartnett, a performer who is decidedly lacking in charisma). But somewhere in the film's final 50 minutes or so, the story takes a sharp left turn and becomes an entirely different animal; amid a series of unexpected revelations, the film drops the mopey tone in favor of something that's far more mysterious and ultimately compelling.
Based on the French film L'Appartement, Wicker Park casts Harnett as Matthew - an investment banker who fell in love two years ago with Lisa (Diane Kruger), only to have her vanish mysteriously one night. He's now engaged to Rebecca (Jessica Paré), but that relationship is thrown into jeopardy when Matthew spots Lisa at a restaurant one night (at least, he thinks it's Lisa). Along with Lisa's best friend Alex (Rose Byrne), Matthew sets out to discover what really happened two years ago.
Wicker Park's been directed by Paul McGuigan, a tremendously uneven filmmaker whose previous efforts have veered from mediocre (The Reckoning) to flat-out awful (The Acid House). And though Wicker Park suffers from the same sort of oddball pacing that seems to plague all of McGuigan's films, there's no denying that - perhaps for the first time - the director has found a story to match his overactive sense of style. Brandon Boyce's screenplay, despite a build-up that's ridiculously overwrought, features a latter half that's crammed with flashbacks and a labyrinthian structure that's challenging and engaging. Consequently, a film that was previously far-from-enthralling becomes absolutely riveting as the viewer is encouraged to try and figure out just what's going on.
But unless one is willing to embrace the manner in which Boyce's script reinvents itself, it seems highly unlikely that Wicker Park will emerge as anything more than a vanity project for some impossibly attractive stars.