This is one of those stories you want to keep vague for fear of giving away too much. It starts when photographer Matthew (Josh Hartnett) sees dancer Lisa (Diane Kruger) for the first time as she passes by his video shop in the Wicker Park section of Chicago immediately captivating him. He follows her they meet and soon fall deeply in love. All things seem to go perfectly until Matthew asks her to move in with him--and she up and leaves on a dance tour without a word. Two years later Matthew has moved on with his life has a good job even a fiancée (Jessica Pare)--but he still has completely gotten over Lisa and the nagging torment of the "what ifs?" Then suddenly he thinks he catches a glimpse of her in a bar. Not sure if it was she all the feelings come rushing back nonetheless and Matthew begins a twisting obsessive search for the woman who captured his heart years ago. But as Matthew's search intensifies it leads him deeper into a mystery which now includes his best friend Luke (Matthew Lillard) and Luke's newfound paramour Alex (Rose Byrne). Facing deception at every turn Matthew quickly learns that obsession can go both ways--and that indeed you can love someone too much. Fuzzy enough for ya?
Once considered the "It" boy especially after a string of films including Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor Hartnett took himself out of the heartthrob equation by slowing down to one film a year. His last two efforts--2002's 40 Days and 40 Nights and 2003's Hollywood Homicide--didn't do so well at the box office so in a way Wicker Park is a coming out party for Hartnett. It deftly brings the actor back into the spotlight as a romantic lead as well as taps into some of that talent we all know he has (remember
The Virgin Suicides?) His Matthew is a rather intense fellow but his emotions about the love that got away ring true even when things turn dangerously towards obsession. In one telling scene after Hartnett finds out he's been played he registers his anger through those penetrating brown eyes. As for his female co-stars Kruger and Byrne (who starred together in the epic Troy) also play well off the situation. Kruger has the easier job of being the sweet object of affection while Byrne turns in the more complex performance as Alex who has hidden agendas of her own. As the best friend Lillard (Without a Paddle) delivers in his usual high energy goofy shtick but at least this time it's with real human beings instead of CGI dogs named Scooby-Doo.
Director Paul McGuigan (The Reckoning) describes Wicker Park as a "love story told in a very non-linear way." Boy he isn't kidding. Although Park is a remake of the French film L'Appartement it takes a wholly original spin on staid themes which in this day and age is getting harder and harder to do (and usually only comes in the form of a Charlie Kaufman script). Through McGuigan's guidance Park toys with your emotions--and your expectations. Jumping back and forth through time and seen through varying perspectives the film starts out very slowly--almost too slowly-- setting up what you think is a sweet love story but then having things quickly turn darker. It's plodding and confusing at first but then it begins to pull back the layers and as you fit the pieces together you're hooked. And as cheesy as it might sound you want to the two lovebirds to find each other; you're on the edge of your seat urging Matthew to hurry up and get to Wicker Park to meet Lisa before she thinks he's never coming and gets on a plane to London forever. Run Matthew run!
Trouble Every Day takes nearly an hour to get going but it ultimately tells the very choppy story of afflicted American researcher Shane Brown's journey to Paris to unravel the murky circumstances surrounding a former colleague's experiments which have resulted in blood-soaked cannibalistic tragedies. First though we meet young Parisienne Core who appears stranded on a road. She stops a trucker who later turns up hidden in the high grass off the highway dead and horribly deformed. Later two punks are skulking around back at the boarded up house where Core's husband Leo usually keeps her locked up. The punks will eventually break into Leo's house where one of them will have a sexual encounter with Core who turns the tryst into a cannibalistic bloodbath. Meanwhile in Paris Dr. Shane Brown and his wife June arrive at their hotel to begin their honeymoon. Shane is mysteriously troubled by incidents that might have begun in Guyana and involve his pilfering of Leo's research. Shane embarks upon secretive inquiries into Leo's whereabouts. Shane learns of Leo's whereabouts but has his own messy encounter with the hotel maid who he nibbles to death. An adorable puppy that Shane buys during his wanderings suggests a ray of hope for Shane's marriage although some telltale blood in Shane's shower might arouse June's suspicions. Sound convoluted? It is. The going's rough and murky in this far-from-type-A wannabe horror shockfest of arty pretentiousness erotic content and self-delusion--this latter referring to the filmmakers' notions that Trouble Every Day might provide any appeal to filmgoers.
Vincent Gallo is appropriately creepy and sinister-looking as the twisted tormented Shane and Beatrice Dalle ably carries the burden of lethally lusty captive Core afflicted by unslaked cannibalism. Tricia Vessey isn't given much more to do than be Shane's cute and clueless new wife just as Alex Descas as doctor Leo is hardly challenged. Although his Leo is relatively passive the script or direction should have burdened him with the angst of a conflicted and tormented Dr. Frankenstein whose afflicted wife craves Big Macs dressed in pants not Thousand Island dressing. The supporting cast is fine and everyone in this Paris-based story wins points by delivering most of their lines in English.
Points also go to blood 'n' guts director Claire Denis for guts if not all the icky-drippy blood on display here. The guts have to do with the boldness required to take so much time to get to the story--almost an hour--by first introducing bites er bits and pieces of an array of seemingly unconnected characters and situations. Such frustrating unfolding of plot creates the er appetite for the story and er feeds the question--what is going on here? Denis favors montages slow and sensual pans unusual camera angles and snippets of graphic footage depicting frontal nudity sexual encounters bloodbaths. But as Shakespeare might have put it--the play's the thing not the foreplay.