Wicker Park is a wicked ride

Sept. 7, 2004, midnight | By Erica Hartmann | 19 years, 8 months ago

Wicker Park is a sordid and surreal twist on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Infinitely more deep and disturbing, Wicker Park explores the darkly passionate nature of love and obsession while touching on the consequences of lying and betrayal.

Matthew (Josh Hartnett) is a hipster photographer who has found himself all-but-married to his boss' sister and preparing for a business trip to China. However successful, this life is not his, and fate intervenes to right his destiny by giving him a glimpse of Lisa (Diane Kruger), his long-lost true love. From there, the film progresses through a series of just-missed encounters and carefully orchestrated events, making Wicker Park nearly as surreal as Vanilla Sky and roughly in the same vein. During his search for Lisa, Matthew is seduced by a desperately awkward woman played by Rose Byrne whose eerie countenance lends a frightening and suspenseful air to the film.

As Wicker Park builds to a climax, it becomes startlingly dark, breaking further and further from Twelfth Night's humor. Instead of a relatively simple case of mistaken identity, this work addresses the extent to which trust can be manipulated and selfish people can abuse others. The true genius of the movie is the inclusion of a scene from Twelfth Night wherein the main character, Viola, shows her inner destitution at having to woo another woman for the man she loves. Her passionate plea, which in the play may be interpreted as slightly more ironic, hints at the torture love can inflict upon its victims.

While this torture is well acted by Matthew's unfortunate best friend Luke (Matthew Lillard) and the mysterious Byrne, Hartnett and Kruger are both superficial characters whose aversion to telephones condemns them to a succession of miscommunications. It would seem that the whole premise could be avoided by an easy payment of $19.95 per month for basic cellular service.

Furthermore, it snows heavily throughout the movie. If the snow is a symbol, it's not evident. Otherwise, it's a regrettable detail to include in a late-summer release. Although it's entirely realistic in Chicago, it's very distracting in early-September D.C. Perhaps the release is just altogether ill-timed.

Wicker Park redeems itself with trippy visual effects and flashbacks, showing a single scene from multiple perspectives. It also has a catchy, moving score. Both the cinematography and the music are very effective at heightening the tension.

Applause also goes out to a thinly veiled reference to Cinderella, a scene which serves as a transition from overwhelming disquietude to hope at last.

Despite some setbacks, Wicker Park is gripping. If nothing else, it's an exciting exposé of human evils.

Wicker Park runs 115 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sexuality and language.

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