April 25th, 2007
Wicker Park, with Josh Hartnett, Diane Kruger, and Rose Byrne, is a baffling puzzle piece that starts in the middle and gradually catches up to itself. By the end almost all is explained, and almost everything is made clear.
Once you get past thinking it’s supposed to be a psychological thriller, and recognize it for what it is - a comedy of errors about attractive young people trying to find each other - the film is really quite likeable. It’s very loosely akin to Twelfth Night, Shakespeare’s tale of impostors and mistaken identity, a fact that is helpfully telegraphed when Rose Byrne’s character Alex, an actress, actually appears in a play-within-a-play performance of Twelfth Night as Viola.
The reason you might think it’s supposed to be a psychological thriller is because it feels like one for the first half-hour or so. Hartnett’s character, Matt, pretends to go to China, then sneaks off the plane and into somebody’s hotel room; a scary drug is taken; a mysterious industrialist’s wife dies. What does it all mean?
Not much. It’s a whole school of red herrings, and I can’t help thinking the director was as confused as the moviegoers. It’s a mess, but the music is good, the cinematography is sylish and first-rate, and the actors are attractive and likeable - especially Byrne, who has an endearing ditzy quality that sets her apart from the cooler, more patrician Kruger.
(Interestingly, both actresses appeared in Troy, the big-budget 2004 version of Homer’s Iliad. True to type, in that movie Kruger plays the regal Helen of Troy, whose face launches a thousand ships, while Byrne is Briseis, a slave girl who sports in a tent with Brad Pitt’s Achilles. You might say Byrne is Betty to Kruger’s Veronica.)
Hartnett with Kruger
Hartnett is fine as Matt, although I can’t help thinking his small eyes and broad cheekbones give him a dim, feral look, something like a koala bear. (But what do I know? Chicks like him.)
Hartnett with koala bear
I should warn you that Rotten Tomatoes only gives this movie a rating of 24%. I thought it was quite a bit better than that. Maybe the problem is that you have to see it twice to get it, and you might not want to; but I wanted to and did. And I like Rose Byrne.