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Friday, September 3, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

Only Hartnett faithful will enjoy the maze that is "Wicker Park"

Seattle Times movie critic

OK, so there are movies with plots, then there are Movies With Plots, then there's "Wicker Park," which features a story so convoluted, audience members should be given a bag of breadcrumbs upon entry, so as to leave a trail through the logic. Otherwise, you leave asking numerous questions, like "So, did she know that he was his friend?" or "But what about the other guy?" or simply, "Um, what?" All this is in service to, let us remember, a Josh Hartnett movie. Maybe the studio should be sending Josh around to explain things.

Directed by Paul McGuigan, "Wicker Park" is based on the 1996 French film "L'Appartement" (which I fully intend to rent someday, when I am feeling especially wide-awake and alert). The American update, written by Brandon Boyce, focuses on Matthew, a well-groomed young advertising executive who's having a business meeting in a Chicago restaurant.

He looks miserable, but perhaps this is because he's an advertising executive having a business meeting in a Chicago restaurant — we're not given any other reason. Suddenly, he sees a lovely woman ... and suddenly, everything changes.

Movie review


Showtimes and trailer

**
"Wicker Park," with Josh Hartnett, Rose Byrne, Matthew Lillard, Diane Kruger. Directed by Paul McGuigan, from a screenplay by Brandon Boyce, based on the motion picture "L'Appartement," screenplay by Gilles Mimouni. 115 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexuality and language. Several theaters.

Flashbacks explain, sort of, that she's Lisa (Diane Kruger), the woman who broke Matthew's heart two years ago. More flashbacks show how they met, how Matthew once worked in a camera and video store, how he followed her around because she was so beautiful she made his stomach hurt and how it snows a lot in Chicago. And now, back in the present day, Matthew is determined to find Lisa again, with the help of his goofy pal Luke (Matthew Lillard), who's mostly around to provide comic relief.

But instead of finding Lisa, he finds a mysterious woman (Rose Byrne) who says her name is Lisa, and lives in Lisa's apartment, but who has a different shoe size. (Yes, this is relevant. I think.) And then there's the mysterious ex-boyfriend with good bone structure, who lurks on the sidewalk when convenient, and the actress Luke is dating, who's in what looks like a very bad production of "Twelfth Night" (pay attention, this comes back to haunt us), and a narrative that keeps rewinding and fast-forwarding, so you have to carefully watch everybody's haircuts to know what year it is. Over the final scene, a song is played whose lyrics feature the refrain "Nobody said it was easy." Indeed.

All this isn't entirely unwatchable: The off-the-wall weirdness of it all keeps you interested, and Hartnett is a likable if low-key leading man. Kruger, though lovely, gives a frosty, remote performance, leaving all the emoting to poor Byrne, whose saucer eyes always seem to be filling with tears. Perhaps she's just pondering the plot. Um, what?

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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