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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Reeling from Romantic Obsession
by Betty Jo Tucker

When someone asks me to name my favorite films of all time, that list changes a bit depending on my mood. But one movie always makes it to the top five: Vertigo. I never get tired of watching Jimmy Stewart’s riveting obsession with Kim Novak in Hitchcock’s haunting psychological thriller. Wicker Park, starring Josh Hartnett, deals with similar material but fails to measure up, mostly because of its reliance on too many coincidences and confusing flashbacks.

Still, Hartnett (Hollywood Homicide), who’s becoming a very watchable actor, almost makes this movie worth seeing. In addition to his dark good looks, he has a highly expressive face and a rich, deep voice. (When will he get the screen material he deserves?) In Wicker Park, Hartnett delivers a strong performance as Matt, a man recovering from a broken heart. When he thinks he sees his former lover in a restaurant, Matt drops everything to find her again. By everything, I mean his job, his new girlfriend, a scheduled flight to China -- and even his sense of reason.      

If Diane Kruger, the actress who played Helen in Troy, doesn’t watch out, she’ll be typecast as a woman who causes men to do dangerous things. She’s certainly beautiful enough to “launch a thousand ships” or a full-blown obsession. In Wicker Park, Kruger portrays Lisa, a professional dancer with whom Matt falls deeply in love. When she disappears from his life, he’s devastated. Just ask Matt’s best friend (Matthew Lillard), who hears all about it and is no stranger to problems of a romantic nature himself.           

Rose Byrne, another cast member from Troy, appears in a Wicker Park role that boosts the film’s mystery quotient. Who she really is and why she’s doing so many strange things form the basis for a number of extremely hard-to-follow flashbacks. I’m not complaining about Byrne’s acting, though. With her big eyes tearing up on command and a sweet smile quickly changing into a frown, she’s a chameleon who keeps us guessing until the very end. However, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out early on that Byrne’s character may be suffering from an obsession of her own.

With its intriguing camera shots of long corridors, snow-covered Wicker Park, and glimpses of faces through glass windows, this remake of L’Appartement, a French film by Gilles Mimouni, boasts some fascinating cinematography by Peter Sova (Donnie Brasco). Unfortunately, as directed by Paul McGuigan (The Reckoning) from Brandon Boyce’s screenplay, it loses too much in the translation. Coincidence after coincidence plus missed meetings and unanswered phone calls become excruciatingly annoying. At the end of the film, my husband (who always wants true love to triumph over any obstacles) complained, “If you don’t have an anxiety neurosis before seeing this movie, you’ll develop one watching it.”     

(Released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and rated “PG-13” for sexuality and language.)

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