Wicker Park

The classic tale of boy meets some crazy
chick who pretends to be her roomate.
"Passion never dies."

There was a period of time where I only watched movies that were morose and about the lives of maladjusted people, especially if it was about their completely messed up love lives. During that time the Blockbuster by my house was going out of business, and so, instead of engaging other people or doing something constructive with my life I would go next door around 11pm and sift through their marked down movies, picking out ones that seemed sort of interesting. So it was that I acquired Wicker Park, a movie with Josh Hartnett of all people in it. Most recently you might remember him in 30 Days of Night, but he has a pretty good track record that goes all the way back to The Faculty in '98 (which was a fantastic movie by the way). He stars as an advertising executive named Matthew who arrives in Chicago with his fiance, where he sees a woman that he was previously deeply, sexily in love with, like in the picture to the left. (That's Diane Kruger, who you may remember from Inglorious Bastards, or if you watch bad movies, the National Treasure movies. Yes I've seen them, I have FX and USA.) Her name is Lisa.

You can just tell she's thinking something crazy.
So he thinks he sees this girl, and instead of going on a business trip to China, he begins obsessively searching for her. Rather than find her, he ends up finding a woman who says she is also Lisa, thought actually she's just crazy and her name is Alex. (portrayed by Rose Byrne, who I think is just charming when she is not portraying lunatics. Most recently she portrayed Moira MacTaggert in X-Men: First Class). He sleeps with her, despite the obvious warning signs, and then is more or less immediately given cause to regret that decision when he realizes that she is bonkers guano crazy time. I don't want to take all the fun out of the movie for you by telling you why but trust me. She is not right.

She won't look so smug after TWO National Treasure movies.
The plot is centered more or less around these three characters,  Matt, Lisa, and Alex, though admittedly Lisa we see mostly through flashbacks. This film is very much structured like a short story in that way, and I think that is to it's credit. In a lot of ways, a production the length of the average movie, about 2 hours, is most simply utilized for a short story's plot arc. a minimum of characters, a single central conflict that most or all the action of the story is based around. There are not sub-plots or distracting factors to this movie. There is Matt, trying to find one woman, obstructed by the other.

Our careers are made! I'll never star in a Nicholas Cage movie
about a secret constitution treasure, involving freemasons!
What you end up with when you structure a movie like that is a story that is relatively simple, but also focused. That's good, but only when the single plot is well thought out. I liked Wicker Park enough that if weird suspense romance were your thing I would say it's worth a watch, but the plot leaves something to be desired. You want your plot to hinge on convenient happenstance or coincidence. That's just plain sloppy writing, and it feels cheap when you're watching it. It is always tempting because it's an easy fix when you need something in your plot to happen, but it is the wrong thing to do. What do we figure the odds are that suddenly in a restaurant Matt sees Lisa, and then gives chase, despite having not looked for her in the past two years and gotten engaged to someone else? Not too great, and critics generally agreed. While it wasn't totally panned, it ended up with mostly negative reviews (I just checked, it's sitting around 23% on RT) and it grossed pretty poorly, making 21 million against a 30 million dollar budget (I can't really figure out what about this movie cost 30 million dollars).

Oh, she seems nice. I bet she'll be cool with us staying casual.
I think the movie's plot is otherwise entertaining, it's just a shame they didn't work harder to think out the plot. The cast pulls it together and deliver admirable performances in spite of the aforementioned improbable circumstances, and that was I think what made me feel like the movie is worth the watch. The benefit of having very few characters is that you get the chance to see a lot more of them. The characters are interesting, I just wish I could have watched them in a slightly better movie, that did not have any Coldplay songs in it at any point. (The Scientist over the ending scene. Things were going so well and they fumble at the end zone). This might be a good date night movie (is that a thing people do?) or if you feel the way I do about sort of moody depressed movies, then I also recommend this for that reason.

Join me on Thursday, when I will finish the week out with a second movie not incorporating explosions, leading us into PRETENTIOUS INDIE WEEK (more on that Thursday).
With a guest appearance from Zooey Deschanel.

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