DVD Review HTF Review: Wicker Park

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Jan 10, 2005.

  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

    Jul 6, 2003
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    Wicker Park

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 2004
    Rated: PG-13
    Running Time: 115 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16x9 Widescreen (2.35:1)
    Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
    Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1; French – Stereo Surround

    Release Date:
    December 28th, 2004

    Wicker Park, a watered-down remake of the gripping French film L’Appartement, is marketed as a thriller about an investment banker named Matthew (Josh Hartnett), who becomes obsessed with finding his girlfriend, a professional dancer named Lisa (Diane Kruger), who has mysteriously vanished. No shocker there…most folks would investigate the disappearance of a loved one, but the wrinkle here is that two years later Matthew believes he sees Lisa in a crowded restaurant, and becomes consumed with tracking her down to see why she disappeared. Indeed, he quickly pushes everything in his life aside, including an important business trip to China and his current fiancée, Rebecca (Jessica Pare), to find his former love.

    Fortunately for Matthew, he has some help in the search for his lost love, in the form of his pal, Luke (Matthew Lillard). Indeed, it is Luke who helps Matthew find Lisa - only the wrong one (?), a nurse (Rose Byrne) who Matt suspects of hiding a secret as he gets to know her better. As the movie plays on, we learn that this Lisa is not the only character hiding things, but her secret is a real doozy - she is also dating Luke, to whom she professed to be an actress named Alex. As you can clearly see, this is where things are supposed to begin getting really interesting….

    Now initially, this premise sounded intriguing (well it did to me anyway), but Wicker Park is yet another case of good idea, poor execution, which there is really no excuse for since the filmmakers had a sound blueprint in L’Appartement. As a result, the film never manages to reach the same heights as contemporary thrillers like L’Appartement, let alone the riveting, suspenseful thrillers made by the genre’s legends.

    Among the biggest problems is that leading man Josh Hartnett’s performance is probably best described as being “phoned in”, following suit with the plot, which merely stumbles clumsily from one absurd twist to another as the story unfolds. Moreover, after everything resolves itself, the explanation for the whole story is so contrived and reliant upon coincidence that you will probably find yourself scratching your head – until it bleeds! Indeed, many of the events in this film are not only highly improbable, but also downright ridiculous, and in a genre where films rise or fall on the clever commingling of plot points and twists, the poor writing evident throughout Wicker Park could not have possibly resulted in anything but failure.

    Although effective in other films, the non-linear way in which Wicker Park’s tale is told is also problematic. I suppose the filmmakers thought that this stylistic choice would infuse this analysis of the fine line between love and stalking with a more mysterious air, but in reality it is not enough to shroud the boring, melodramatic storyline and awful acting by most of the principals.

    In that regard, I have already offered my opinion on the talents, or lack thereof, of Josh Hartnett, but the woman who plays the character he is fascinated with, Diane Kruger, is almost as bad, if you can believe that. Indeed, although Ms. Kruger is obviously a very attractive woman, she is every bit as un-compelling as Lisa, and as anyone who has dated a beautiful but shallow or dull person can tell you, looks aren’t everything. With that in mind, I could not help but seriously question why a handsome, talented dude like Matthew would be so desperately in love with Lisa. I tried to stop asking myself and just watch the film, but I simply could not stop wondering why he was essentially turning his world inside out trying to find someone who obviously did not care enough about him to break things off in a normal manner.

    Moving along, Rose Byrne fares a little better as the second Lisa that Matthew meets, but compared with the lifeless performances turned in by Hartnett and Kruger, it would be hard not to look good. Really, the lone - and almost completely unexpected - bright spot, in terms of performances, is that of Matthew Lillard (yes, the very same goofball who played Shaggy in the atrocious live-action Scooby-Doo films). As it turns out, the animated Lillard is able to lighten the somber tone of Wicker Park without going over-the-top, as Matthew’s friend Luke, and I really liked him in this movie.

    As I mentioned earlier, my initial impression, especially after reading the press material for Wicker Park, was that it should present an intriguing psychological challenge. Unfortunately, screenwriter Brandon Boyce’s script has more than a few problems, not the least of which is the fact that its characters are not even remotely interesting, as their unclear motivations and bland personas make it impossible to care what happens to them.

    Finally, although I am usually the first one to applaud a director’s clever use of visual tricks, I abhor using overly elaborate techniques and camera techniques for their own sake, which it appears that helmsman Paul McGuigan has done here. To be brutally honest, I think McGuigan should have spent more time and attention on telling a better story and getting more lively performances out of his leads than obsessing over the annoying and voluminous split-screens and disorienting camera moves in Wicker Park. In my opinion, they just don’t serve the story. Hmm…perhaps he was keenly aware of how weak the screenplay and the characters are, and trying his best to take audiences’ minds off of these things in other ways. If only he had succeeded…

    MGM serves up Wicker Park in its original aspect ratio (2:35:1), which has been enhanced for widescreen displays. The results of their efforts are impressive, as this transfer offers the film in a manner that appears to be quite faithful to the source material. To begin with, colors are rendered with precision and accuracy, and flesh tones remain smooth and natural in their appearance throughout.

    Blacks are also deep and well defined, which leads to excellent shadow delineation and image depth. Being a recent production, you will probably not be surprised that the print used is extremely clean, with only a few barely noticeable imperfections, and the image also boasts an impressive level of fine detail. Moreover, from what I see, it is also free from distractions such as compression artifacts, aliasing, and edge enhancement. Bottom line, this is a very fine transfer!

    Not much surprise here…while not quite outstanding, the 5.1 channel Dolby Digital soundtrack for Wicker Park does a more than respectable job of reproducing the film’s audio information. First of all, dialogue is warm and natural, with no noticeable anomalies that interfere with its clear and crisp presentation.

    The soundstage is also more open and airy than in most similar films, exhibiting smooth panning and an even frequency response. This is particularly true of scenes that take place outdoors, where the surround channels take an active role in giving the viewer/listener a sense of the environment the characters are in. Bass response is similarly subtle, yet still powerful.

    All things considered, this soundtrack does not leave me with any negative impressions; as it does what it is supposed to do, which is present the source material about as accurately as one could hope for.


    Audio Commentary
    The feature-length commentary that accompanies Wicker Park is provided by actor Josh Hartnett and director Paul McGaugin, and though the tone of their commentary matches the tone of the film, it is not a bad listen. More specifically, although it is a bit too focused on the technical aspects of the feature for my liking, and the participants are not exactly enthusiastic and engaging, this commentary track contains some insight into the reasons behind the characters’ behaviors and more information on their backgrounds. If (unlike me) you enjoyed this film, I recommend giving it a listen.

    Deleted Scenes
    There are a total of 11 “never-before-seen” deleted scenes, which run for over 15 minutes, included. They are titled:

    --- “The Jeweler”
    --- “The Stairwell”
    --- “First Flashback”
    --- “God Is In The Details”
    --- “Share A Little Something”
    --- “We Can See Each Other”
    --- “Final Run-Through”
    --- “Photograph”
    --- “Phone Cell”
    --- “Daniel”
    --- “Breakfast In Bed”

    Most of these excised scenes really would not have added anything to the film, but I always applaud their inclusion, as it can give aspiring filmmakers (or even casual fans) an idea of why a particular sequence was trimmed from the film.

    Gag Reel
    A very short compilation of bloopers…nothing out of the ordinary.

    Music Video
    The music video for the song “Against All Odds”, by the Postal Service, is included.

    Photo Gallery
    The photo gallery contains a total of 33 color production stills.

    Trailer and Promotional Materials
    The original theatrical trailer for Wicker Park is included, as well as a soundtrack spot, an “MGM Means Great Movies” promo, and a selection of trailers for other films released by the studio.


    (on a five-point scale)
    Film: [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    In no uncertain terms, Wicker Park is a dismal film, and not the least bit worthy of your time or money. Really, no part of this story is the least bit interesting, thrilling, or mysterious. Indeed, convoluted, tedious, and riddled with illogical inconsistencies would be more appropriate descriptions, as the screenplay is extremely weak, the acting (with the exception of Matthew Lillard – I can’t believe I am writing that!) is horrible, and to top it all off, the visual style is disorienting and the story culminates with an ending that is truly preposterous.

    Now, as for the home video presentation of Wicker Park, you probably already know (from the stars I doled out to the sections of the DVD) what I am about to say…awful movie, pretty good DVD! The highlight is definitely the visuals, which are extremely sharp and precise, but the soundtrack is good as well, and there is a decent helping of extras served up, including 11 excised scenes and a fairly informative audio commentary.

    Unfortunately, although the DVD presentation is respectable, Wicker Park is still one of the worst films I have seen in some time. It is to their credit that MGM went through all of this trouble for the DVD release of this turkey, which only managed to take in $12.9 million in the U.S., as when it comes to DVD, I am always in favor of more, and not less, from the studios. Anyway, unless you have a rare affliction that compels you to see everything that Josh Hartnett or Diane Kruger is in, stay away!!!

    Stay tuned…
  2. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

    Jul 27, 2004
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    I will wholeheartedly agree that Wicker Park is not worth anybody's time. I'm getting the feeling that while the reviewer mentions L'Appartement several times in this review that he actually hasn't seen L'Appartement. All the non-linear story-telling is in that film, too, only it's done really well. The biggest change to Wicker Park in terms of plotting (well, there are many) is, what else is new, the ending, which makes nonsense of the entire film. If there's a worse performance than Hartnett's, I haven't seen it. Rose Byrne is a good actress, but when one has seen the brilliant Romaine Bohrenger (sp?) in the original, there is no comparison. Of course, the original actors had a real director and writer to work with. If you have an all-region player, get L'Appartement - it's a terrific film. The real shocker is why L'Appartement, made in 1996, remains Giles Mimouni's only film to date. It's such an assured debut, it puzzles.
  3. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

    Jul 19, 2003
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    Thanks for the review....
    But I, and I am probably alone here, really liked Wicker Park. I was surprised at how involved I became with it, and thought it was completely effective.

    But that's me, let the flogging begin.:b
  4. rich_d

    rich_d Cinematographer

    Oct 21, 2001
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    Real Name:

    Absolutely. I could go on and on about this film and Mimouni's script and direction of it. Terrific. The Artificial Eye (Region 2) disc is pretty good. Of course, now that Wicker Park has had its run, perhaps the U.S. studio stranglehold on distribution of L'Appartement may come to an end.

    However, while I was disappointed that Wicker Park was not a clever remake nor even one true to the spirit of the original (and Hartnett terribly miscast)I also would stop somewhat short of calling it dismal. It just pales in comparison to one of the best films of the 90's.

    btw, is it just me or does Hartnett look like he could be Tommy Lee Jones' son?
  5. TheBat

    TheBat Producer

    Aug 2, 1999
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    try hollywood homicide for josh harnett.. that movie was terrible and so was he.

  6. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    Hi, my name is Sue Kane and I’m addicted to Josh….. Okay, so she drags me into the theater last night with her copy of WP in hand… (I wasn’t kicking and screaming, fair is fair and she watches enough of my favorites) and I have to admit, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. The premise is indeed intriguing and admittedly the ball was dropped in terms of execution, but I enjoyed the stylized imagery and the fractured recount of the storyline. I also thought the music was chosen wisely and the score was fitting, given its style. If you have a hard time suspending your disbeliefs or have difficulties believing in coincidences or meetings of happenstance, then this isn’t a film for you…

    The performances didn’t do much to leave an impression, but it’s been a long time since I absolutely abhorred a performance as much as I did Matthew Lillard’s. I don’t know if it’s simply a matter of typecast or if the performance truly was that bad, but even the way he answered the phone had me reaching for the screen…

    I suspect whether you’ve seen L'Appartement or not will have a profound effect on how you feel about WP. Obviously, if the original is as good as those here say it is, it would certainly be a letdown, thankfully, that wasn’t the case for me since I haven’t yet seen it. It has managed to do one thing however; I’ve placed L'Appartement in my Amazon.fr cart for my next order… interesting stuff.

    Thanks for the review Jason.
  7. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

    Jul 27, 2004
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    Herb, if you can forget Wicker Park in the meantime, I think you'll be very impressed with L'Appartement. I'm not impressed with much these days, but L'Appartement is one of the best films of the nineties - it succeeds in everything it sets out to do. And the score is wonderful (sadly not on CD). Mr. Mimouni set out to pay homage to Mr. Hitchcock, but unlike Mr. DePalma, he did it his own way and it all just works splendidly.
  8. Brian.L

    Brian.L Supporting Actor

    Feb 5, 2004
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    I'm surpised (and gratified) to see such a huge pan of this movie. I feel exactly the same way (it was the Worst of 2004 for me), but I've seen this movie get decent reviews elsewhere. Great soundtrack though, so it's nice to hear that at least that aspect of the film comes across well on DVD.
  9. Elijah Sullivan

    Elijah Sullivan Supporting Actor

    Jun 18, 2004
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    I'm surprised (and disappointed) to see such a huge pan of this movie [​IMG]. Honestly, I thought this was the best mainstream Hollywood picture I saw all year. (It was great year for foreign and indy films.)

    Maybe this movie isn't everyone's cup of tea (and no, I haven't seen L'Appartement), perhaps the best I can do to describe my feelings is say, if I had made this movie I would have done everything the same. For better or for worse.

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