Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wicker Park

Movie Review : Wicker Park
Released : 2004
Director: Paul McGuigan
Starring : Josh Hartnett, Rose Byrne, Matthew Lillard, Diane Kruger
Rated : PG-13
My Rating : 7 out of 10

Often times, it's all about expectations. The front cover of the DVD and plot outline on the back cover, give a wrong idea. It makes you think that this is another B-grade thriller with illogical twists added just to surprise you. Couldn't be more wrong.

In the beginning of the movie, Matthew (Josh Hartnett) is dining in a restaurant with his fiancé and prospective business clients from China. He overhears - or thinks so - his girlfriend from the past. He is convinced it is Lisa (Diane Kruger). That starts his obsessive quest to find her again. He decides to not go to China, lies to his current fiancé about it and remains in Chicago.

We don't get many clues in the first few scenes. Did Matt really hear her ? Or did he mistake her for someone else's voice ? And who is Lisa ? Why did he suddenly lose contact with her, as he is still clearly in love with her ?

The writers decide to complicate the matters here. The narrative mixes what happens after that with flashbacks - sometimes the same scenes, with different viewpoints. And by doing this in a well-planned way, they raise the movie level from a simple story to a smartly made film.

I do not want to give away anything. So I will have to skip writing more about the characters and how they are related to each other. Not that there is a big suspense at the end. It's just that having the movie outsmart you is kind of fun. The surprises are fun not because they are big twists and turns, but because they are simple and make sense. Eventually, all gaps are filled and there are no more lose threads. At the end, I was smiling with that realization, instead of shaking my head in disbelief.

Any story like this relies heavily on coincidences. Cell-phones sometimes exist in the story, but their lack of use at convenient places is needed to make the plot work. So if you want to find holes, you can. Still, the movie works, because the script keeps you engaged. It's not a fast paced film, it's quite the opposite, but as a viewer, you remain busy.

What definitely helps is the sincere effort by all the actors. No role demands an Oscar caliber performance, but everyone plays their part well to make you believe in the story. The direction is superbly sympathetic to the characters. It succeeds in conveying their feelings of sadness, awkwardness, jealousy and establishing the gullibility, fallibility of human nature.

Overall, I can definitely recommend this movie if you are willing to watch it attentively and accept coincidences as essential part of story-telling. This movie is definitely not for kids.

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