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New Movie <i>Wicker Park</i> Takes Unconventional Approach to Love Story

  • Alan Silverman

Josh Hartnett heads the handsome, young cast of a romantic mystery of love found, betrayed and found again. Alan Silverman has a look at Wicker Park.

The age-old warning that "love makes fools of us all" drives the convoluted plot of Wicker Park, named for the Chicago neighborhood where the characters live. Young photographer Mattie, played by Josh Hartnett, sees dancer Lisa, played by German-born actress Diane Kruger, and he is smitten.

"The thing that I relate to most in the character is that fine line you have to ride between love and obsession," explains Hartnett.

Josh Hartnett believes anyone ever touched by love can identify with Mattie's predicament.

"I love this girl. I want to show her how much I love her; but at the same time it's a slippery slope that can go to this place of total obsession," he says.

Mattie eventually wins Lisa's heart and Diane Kruger says the course of their relationship also rings true to her.

"I certainly think that many things in life, especially in love, have to do with timing," she says. "I've been in a position where you feel very strongly about someone and that other person just doesn't or can't make the time or it's just not the right time in his life or vice versa. I believe that there is a time for everything in life, so you just cross each other's paths and you can't take that same road, even though somehow you want to. It just doesn't work out all the time and I think you know you've found someone really special when you do walk down the same road.

But, to borrow Shakespeare's line, the course of true love never did run smooth. In the case of Lisa and Mattie, it's because of a third person: an aspiring actress named Alex, whose obsession with Mattie pushes her to sabotage the relationship. Australian actress Rose Byrne co-stars as Alex.

"I think everyone has their obsessions in life with people or whatever it may be: it's just the degree of control we have over them [and] how much rationale or strength we have over ourselves. This character in the film has none of that," Byrne says.

In a style that is becoming more popular with filmmakers, Wicker Park plays out in a nonlinear fashion. Instead of presenting the plot in chronological order, Scottish-born director Paul McGuigan reveals important details by replaying key scenes from the romance in flashback.

"It's a mystery. It's a romantic mystery," he explains. "I don't know if that's a genre. I just made that one up 'romantic mystery but that's what it is: romance and the mystery is 'what is going on?' I was really interested by that. When I first got the script I couldn't make head or tail of it; and that's the way I wanted to present it to an audience. I didn't want to dumb it down."

Wicker Park is adapted from the 1996 French film L'Appartement. In fact, a gourmet restaurant in this new film is named 'Bellucci's' in honor of L'Appartement star Monica Bellucci. Co-star Diane Kruger admits knowing that film helped her manage the many plot twists.

"I live in France and had seen the original when it came out so I knew what the movie was about," she says. "It is certainly a movie that requires the audience to sit up and really watch what's happening. It is intentional that is confusing at times. You don't know if it's a flashback or present time. That is certainly one of the challenges when you shoot it because you have to make sure that it has continuity."

Wicker Park also features Matthew Lillard as Mattie's best friend and an unwitting pawn in the romantic mystery adapted from the French original by screenwriter Brandon Boyce. The film was shot in Montreal, with the wintry Canadian city standing in for Chicago.

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