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MGM Studios DVD presents
Wicker Park (2004)

"Sometimes when you see someone from afar, you develop a fantasy. Then when you see them up close, nine times out of ten you wish you hadn't."
- Matthew (Josh Hartnett)

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: December 27, 2004

Stars: Josh Hartnett, Rose Byrne, Matthew Lillard, Diane Kruger
Director: Paul McGuigan

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexuality and language
Run Time: 01h:54m:44s
Release Date: December 28, 2004
UPC: 027616921529
Genre: mystery


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B+A-A- B-

DVD Review

Upon its theatrical release, Wicker Park piqued my interest. I won't deny a prime motivation was its cast of three stunningly beautiful women, but I recalled an article I had read. Josh Hartnett, disillusioned from such candy-coated blockbusters as Pearl Harbor and Hollywood Homicide, vowed to only make films he deemed substantive and worthwhile. Well, he's a fellow Minnesotan—I'll trust his judgment and give this a try. On the surface, it seems like yet another teenage "chick flick," or a cheap juvenile derivative of Fatal Attraction that is best forgotten. The result is surprising and refreshing.

Matthew (Hartnett) has it all: a lucrative photography job, a woman ready and willing to marry him, and a life of comfort. As he walks the streets of urban Chicago, he window shops for a wedding ring, but something is off. There is an emptiness to his gait, and a lack of excitement that one would expect from such a sunny situation. His one true love, the luminous Lisa (Diane Kruger) vanished years ago amidst the height of their passionate relationship. During a final meeting before his business trip to China, Matt hears a familiar voice from a phone booth. He swears it's Lisa, taking him back to the snowy streets of Wicker Park. Did he really see her, or was it wishful thinking? What he shared with Lisa is too important to squander, and he forgoes business to search for her once more.

Returning to Wicker Park, Matt catches up with his old friend Luke (Matthew Lillard), a shoe salesman whose eccentric nature may get him dates, but does not help him find lasting relationships. Luke is helpful, but skeptical, wanting his friend to find Lisa if she's there, or to move on if she's not. Reuniting with the places of the past brings back memories for Matt: his first sighting of Lisa through a video camera; following her to her dance studio (apparently this works...); those first dizzying moments of euphoria. Matt is committed to finding her at all costs, and follows a trail of clues around town, but her presence seems ever elusive. Another force is at work: Alex, a woman Matt encounters along the way, may be a factor in Lisa's absence. She too is in love, and will stop at nothing to find happiness.

Based on the film L'Appartement, this is an intricately plotted, nonlinear story that kept me slightly confused and guessing along the way. Paul McGuigan's masterful pacing keeps the rope tight throughout, allowing room for emotional impact and substance that prevents this from degenerating into a violent spawn of Fatal Attraction. Instead, we are treated to a mature, intelligent romantic thriller that impressed me. There is a source of danger that is left by the wayside and some plot holes that strain credibility; one wonders why these characters don't stop leaving notes and start picking up phones to clear up the confusion, but these faults are easily forgiven when you're in the thick of it all.

Director Paul McGuigan (The Reckoning) weaves quite a yarn, utilizing some superb editing and visuals. The anamorphic 'scope frame is used to its fullest, and is frequently chopped up into soft-matted split screens that serve great dramatic and aesthetic functions. Simple lap dissolves, double exposures, deep focus, mirrors, and controlled zooms create some very engaging, memorable images the likes of which I have not seen in recent memory. Some '70s shooting techniques have made a welcome comeback. Many of these images were achieved in camera, such as shooting through beveled glass to give an appropriate fragmentation of the frame. I love the 2.35:1 ratio, and cinematographer Peter Sova knows how to maximize its potential.

Aside from the film's technical strengths, the performances manage to elevate the material. Josh Hartnett manages to emote effectively during his frequently solitary scenes, and his dynamic physicality with the colorful Matthew Lillard works very well. Diane Kruger (Troy, National Treasure) struts her dancing and acting abilities to their fullest, further convincing me she is destined for stardom. Rose Byrne (another Troy vet) is amazingly convincing, shifting from Shakespeare, to trusted friend, to unrequited lover with ease. This is a talented cast that McGuigan fosters through some fine direction.

Wicker Park will surprise you. Worthwhile themes are present, eclipsing the expected "love can make you do crazy things." True, but there is more at work. Love at first sight may be real, but such feelings frequently manifest as obsessions. We project what we want to see in the other individual. Infatuation is not love, and can be destructive. We all fall in love at some point. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to handle such feelings, and the line between the two can be chillingly thin.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer is quite good. Contrast is solid, exhibiting deep blacks, and the film's varied color palette is boldly rendered. Edge enhancement was not noticeable, but there is some fine grain to deal with in more darkly lit scenes.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 5.1 audio is quite immersive, surrounding the viewer with a variety of ambient effects that sell the urban locations nicely. The film's heavy use of source music (from The White Stripes, Coldplay, Múm, among others) and Cliff Martinez's memorable score are spread across the soundstage with good bass extension. This is a fine mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring "MGM Means Great Movies" spot, Code 46, Pieces of April, Saved, Angel of Death, Out of Time
11 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Paul McGuigan and Josh Hartnett
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Gag Reel
  2. Soundtrack Spot
  3. Music Video for Postal Service's "Against All Odds"
Extras Review: MGM has included a few quality extras. First is a feature-length audio commentary by director Paul McGuigan and Josh Hartnett. The two discuss the film's themes, locations, music, casting, invisible CGI effects, and even their own personal love lives, drawing comparisons between the story and real life. There are moments of downtime with the duo comments on events on screen (it seems this is the first time Hartnett has seen the final cut), but this is a decent track.

There is some excised material to go through, beginning with a section of eleven deleted scenes that can be played separately or together (15m:32s total, in nonanamorphic widescreen). Scenes include "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 Call," "Daniel," and "Breakfast in Bed." These bits are intriguing, but were rightly taken out. A brief and somewhat humorless Gag Reel (01m:45s) is also included.

A music video for Postal Service's Against All Odds (03m:52s) intercuts clips from the film with original footage of mementos vanishing. There is also a spot for the film's soundtrack (00m:31s).

Finally, you will find the film's theatrical trailer, plus additional trailers for the titles listed above.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

MGM has assembled a fine disc for the surprising Wicker Park. Its layered complexity and emotional power are slowly revealed as the film progresses, creating an engaging romantic thriller that depends on relationships and emotions, not violence and bloodshed. Refreshing, indeed—like a bold blast of cold Wicker Park air.

 


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