Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 05, 2004 1:52 pm 
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Much ado

This Montreal-made American version of the French film L’Appartement (Gilles Mimouni, 1996) is named after the star-crossed lovers’ Chicago trysting place. The plot of the piece is tricky and so is the exposition, which has to go back over all the early scenes once we know what a certain person has been up to. Young Matthew (Josh Hartnett) is a photographer who sees and falls in love with Lisa (Diane Kruger, the unimpressive Helen in this summer’s blockbuster Troy) shortly after another girl, (we learn later from flashbacks) has fallen for him. Complications ensue. Somehow Mattie gets cut off from Lisa just when things are getting really romantic, and both he and his best buddy get involved in meaningless stopgap relationships. Or so it seems. But anyway, never mind: impossible to relate the plot without giving away too many secrets.

I’m told that L’Appartement has a murder in it. Wicker Park doesn’t. That’s a big difference, and the lack of such a central event would explain all the excitement and hurley-burley that seems so egocentric and absurd in Wicker Park. It’s hard to comment further on the differences between the two when I haven’t seen one of them but there’s not so much a lack of clarity in Wicker Park as a lack of understanding on our part about why all this running around is going on. Of course it’s a Hollywood thing to have no end of plane trips made or cancelled in the interest of romance, but Mathew certainly gets ready to go to China an awful lot of times, without going . The movie ends at O’Hare, appropriately enough, with another character probably about to cancel a flight abroad.

It’s not that Josh altogether falls short. He's an appealing mixture here of burgeoning suavity à la Peck and puppy-dog confusion à la Perkins. It's just that he gets no chance to exhibit the gift for physical comedy he showed in Hollywood Homicide and 40 Days (even as far back as The Virgin Suicides) because this is a straight romance; but, apart from the soulful eyebrows, that physicality -- the goofy doubletake, the ambling walk -- is his best feature. About that one person, who shall be nameless here, who seriously sabotages things: is she a bad egg? an example that people in love, as she defensively claims, will go to any lengths? or is she in fact a dangerous nut case? These are issues the American screenwriter doesn't seem to have worked out in detail. The rest of the cast does an adequate job. Rose Byrne, a more interesting Troy alum, is, er, interesting as Alex, and Matthew Lillard is engaging if a bit old as Mathew's best buddy Luke. These details will matter little to Josh-watchers, who will simply be pleased to find that his pretty face, eyebrows and all, occupies about 98% of screen time.

Use of a shoe store and a pair of high heeled red Italian shoes as a dating device makes it look like the authors of this “romance” have been staying up late watching softcore pornmeister Zalman King’s 1992 Red Shoe Diaries.

No doubt something, perhaps something quite essential, was lost in translation from the French original because this movie has a lot of frantic activity but doesn’t deliver the situations to justify it. But situations and actors provide some degree of charm and this is a watchable movie.

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