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SCREEN

WICKER PARK

Josh Bell

Pop quiz: You come home to find that a strange but attractive young man has broken into your apartment. This young man has been following you around for days, believing you to be his long-lost love, which you are not. Do you:


A. Call the police and have them take this nice young man to get some help?


B. Escort the nice young man out your door and wish him well in his quest?


C. Invite him to stay on your couch and then wake him up in the middle of the night to have sex with him?


If you answered C, you could be a character in the preposterous new thriller, Wicker Park. Lisa (Rose Byrne) does just that when she finds Matthew (Josh Hartnett) in her apartment, confused and thinking he's entered the home of his ex-girlfriend, also named Lisa (Diane Kruger). Matthew and Lisa broke up two years ago when she inexplicably disappeared, but after catching what he thinks is a glimpse of her in a restaurant, Matthew drops everything, including a business trip to China and his blink-and-you'll-miss-her fiancée, to pursue his former flame.


Aided by goofy buddy Luke (Matthew Lillard, sadly the only sign of life in the film), Matthew pursues Lisa only to find the other Lisa, a neurotic nurse with a secret who's not what she appears to be. In fact nothing in the movie is what it appears to be, which is unfortunate since, at the outset at least, what it appears to be is interesting. Hartnett barely registers as a screen presence beyond his boyish good looks, but the plot, based on a 1996 French thriller called L'Appartement, has the potential to go somewhere intriguing and say something about the ephemeral nature of love.


Instead it just offers up ridiculous twist after ridiculous twist, and the ultimate explanation is so contrived and predicated on coincidence that it's laughable. The audience at the screening I attended actually did laugh on more than one occasion at the various absurd twists. The plot is so full of holes that it falls apart if you think about it for more than a second, which is fatal for a movie whose very premise involves the interweaving of intricate plot threads. Maybe the French just know how to pull off this sort of hokum, but in American hands, it falls apart like a wet soufflé.

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