2004-09-24 / Columnists


By Robert Snyder

Josh Hartnett must have something going for him. As Matthew in “Wicker Park,” he strings along three girlfriends, yet manages to maintain his sympathetic  heartthrob status.

The problem is that “Wicker” is so upside down, in and out of time that it’s hard to tell “wick” way is up. Hartnett relays on his likeability to keep us struggling to make sense out of the mess that is Brandon Boyce’s adaptation of the plot of “L’Appartement” by Gilles Mimouni.

When the film begins, Matthew is on a personal and professional roll. An advertising executive, he’s engaged to his boss’s pretty sister, Rebecca (Jessica Paré), and is about to fly first class to China to negotiate the agency’s first Asian contract. Then, in a camera store at Chicago’s Wicker Park, he spots Lisa (Diane Kruger), his long-lost love, who disappeared suddenly from his life two years before. However, while he’s spotting Lisa, another obsessive character named Alex (Rose Byrne) catches a glimpse of him. Matthew throws his life and career out the window to search for Lisa. Alex does the same to snag Matthew.

 Following in Alfred Hitchcock’s formidable footsteps, Director Paul McGuigan tries to give “Wicker” the “Rear Window”/”Vertigo” treatment, but his film lacks the comprehensibility of the master and the charisma of the classic thrillers’ star, James Stewart. With Montreal substituting for Chicago, “Wicker” is all over map in terms of flashbacks, though it always seems to be wintertime.

Alex, who turns out to be the girlfriend of Matthew’s shoe salesman buddy Luke (Matthew Lillard), is presented as the villainess. Nonetheless, it’s our hero who is intent on triple-time cheating. He is also well into weirdness when he sneaks into Lisa’s room, confiscates her makeup kit while rolling in her bed sniffing her perfume. No matter. My teenage daughter still finds Hartnett a heartthrob.

If you go see “Wicker Park,” take your teenage daughter, then try to make sense out of it and its hero’s appeal. Or better yet, stay home and let your daughter struggle with it.

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