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Movie Review

Wicker Park

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for sexuality and language

Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Romance, Thriller
1 hr. 50 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

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Featuring: Josh Hartnett, Matthew Lillard, Rose Byrne, Diane Kruger, Jessica Pare
Director: Paul McGuigan
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

“Passion never dies.”

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “From the moment Matthew (Josh Hartnett) sees Lisa (Diane Kruger), nothing else matters. She walks past the window of the shop where he works in the Wicker Park section of Chicago, and he’s immediately captivated. He follows her, they meet, and soon they fall deeply in love. Everything about their relationship seems perfect—until the day she disappears without a trace.

Two years later, Matt has built a new life for himself, but he’s still haunted by her memory and the nagging torment of unanswered questions. Then he catches a quick glimpse of someone he thinks must be her in a bar… but is it? Thus begins a twisting, obsessive search for the woman who captured his heart years ago—and for someone who’s playing with his mind right now. Intricately moving back and forth in time and revealing the story from varying perspectives, Matthew’s search for the truth will lead him deeper into the mystery, with each discovery more deceiving than the next.

Obsession can go both ways, and Matthew discovers it’s possible to love someone too much.”


HHow agonizing and bittersweet is love lost? How profoundly wonderful and poignant is love found again? Anyone who has been in love and lost that special someone can relate to the empty hollowness of loss. Anyone who has had the blessings of rekindling that precious love again knows how fragile love can be and how we must protect it at any cost. No greater gift has God bestowed upon us as human beings than the love between a man and a woman. It mirrors the unconditional love He has for us and lets us understand why we are described as “The Bride” of Christ, a precious truth.

All who go into the theater to see “Wicker Park” must keep this in mind. This film, although not an Oscar contender, takes us on the journey of young love and with a Romeo and Juliet type of emotion sets us on a course we are not soon to forget. Up to the end it keeps the audience guessing if the hero will get the heroin back again. The conclusion does not disappoint.

“Wicker Park” is the Americanization of the 1996 French film “L’Appartement” and like it’s French twin Wicker Park has a quirky plot full of twists and suspense. It’s substance is all emotion. It could be set anywhere, in any time period, on any continent and we would still understand it’s message. It plays with our understanding of love, friendship, betrayal, loss and trust. All the inner workings that make us human and subject to “the flesh,” weak though it may be, is underscored. What makes this story interesting is the sincerity of the actors within the skin of their characters and the sheer inventiveness of the photography.

Two years have passed since Matthew (a gentle and a perfectly naive performance by Josh Hartnett) lost his one true love Lisa (a sweet earthy Diane Kruger). Without any warning or explanation she just vanished from his life leaving him a shell of a person going through the motions of life. It is not clear how he got from working in a camera shop in Wicker Park to New York businessman, but his match with his new girlfriend (Jessica Pare) who has a brother with connections in the firm where Matt is now employed gives us a hint.

On the eve of cinching a big “deal” for the firm and jetting off to China, Matt encounters a whisp of a girl who he is convinced is his long lost Lisa. He becomes obsessed with finding this girl, and so begins Matt’s journey compelling him into a web of dim mystery. Matt postpones his flight to China without telling the firm or his new girlfriend. No one knows he’s still in the city except for his best friend Luke (Matthew Lillard does a great job being a guy lost and clueless) who eventually winds up the unknowing cog in the wheel of Matt’s quest.

Through a maze of incredible coincidences Matt finds a Lisa (Rose Byrne as a misguided angel with her own obsession), but not his lost Lisa. She lures him into a relationship which he regrets later, but she seems so sweet and innocent to him he doesn’t know how to break it off. And still he pines for the real Lisa. Matt is torn between doing the right thing and his overpowering compulsion that his Lisa is so close he can smell her perfume.

Just when we think we know the plot, the twists start coming in rapid succession. Through lost keys and notes, unanswered messages, missed phone calls and through memories painted on the screen in mesmerizing images, past and present mingle delightfully yet off-centered. The viewer plays into the hands of the story and is swept into Matt’s confused mania. The “other” Lisa turns out to be Luke’s new girlfriend Alex, who has been posing as the ghost Lisa to land Matt’s love. Alex turns out to be the one with the real obsession in the end. I will not go into the details of how we find out where all these characters end up because that would ruin most of the surprise events that bring us to the tense conclusion.

As in most of the movies I have reviewed lately, there are minimal swear words in “Wicker Park,” but the sexuality is rampant. The vivid references to sex before marriage and lustful content discussed by these characters paints a far more vivid picture than any profanities ever could—and is ten times more impressionable on young minds. Parents should be concerned with this sly attempt the film industry has taken to get the PG-13 rating and boost ticket sales. It is no secret that teens spend millions of dollars a year on pleasure, movies being one of the big dollar items.

Parents should know that the movie has brief strong language, some explicit sexual references, and non-explicit sexual situations. Characters drink and one becomes tipsy. The character of Luke was a womanizer and made many off-color references to sex with women. There is 1 F-word, 2 religious profanities, and 14 religious exclamations which are disturbing and unneeded to move the story along.

This is an adult film. The context in spirit is all secular. There is not even a hint of the Lord and how He could be the Helper to these poor lost individuals. The idea of love at first sight is a running thread throughout, but it gets confused with lust at first sight, and weakens the strength of the main character’s romance.

The love scene between Lisa and Matt happens on the “first date” and is all passionate, lustful kisses, undressing furiously, and no build up to the relationship. For teen girls and boys who are allowed into this film because of the PG-13 rating, this sends such a confused message on real, true love that it remains a major concern to me. How can they know what it is to cultivate a lasting love for their mate through knowing the inner person if the movies they see make it seem natural to jump in bed first and have sex right away? Where is the safe sex message in the films of today? To take a quote from author Saul Wurman “You fall in love over conversation, not over sex.”

Some dialogue to ponder:

In the opening scene, Matt is looking for an engagement ring for his new girlfriend and the jeweler describes the diamonds within the rings as “God’s tears.” When Matt says he just doesn’t know which one is right, the jeweler utters the most poignant phrase in the whole movie: “…in the end, it’s not your eye that must decide, but your heart.” Later, we find that Matt really wanted to be a photographer. Lisa says she wouldn’t know what is lovely enough to take a picture of. Matt’s answer tells of what we all should be looking for in creation. He gently declares “things don’t have to be extraordinary to be beautiful.”

Matt’s friend, Luke has a line which the secular world embraces more than it knows. He says “The minute you decide on something, along comes temptation.” Jesus was tempted of Satan and we should make it perfectly clear to our teenagers that temptation can be overcome by using His divine example: knowing scripture, knowing faith, knowing God’s will in all things is our shield against temptation and sin. Total abstinence before marriage, of course, is the only way to staying not only physically healthy, but spiritually healthy as well.

There are three sex scenes in this film, and although they don’t show naked bodies, they all relate potential destructive messages about real love as apposed to just lust that can later interfere with marital intimacy. Parents are advised to lovingly guide their teens into God’s will for their love lives, not just in relation to this movie, but many “teen” love stories out today that depict distorted love relationships.

There is also the issue of deception and selfishness. Discuss the ultimate hurt and ruin of persons absorbed with selfish desires to the point of domination. Alex’s character not only made herself miserable in the end, but she nearly destroys everyone involved in her obsession by duplicity and lies. It is not always the easiest way to our heart’s desires to go about it honestly. The quicker way, although fraught with hurt, may be most tempting. Satan would like nothing better than to entice us into sin. The younger he grasps us, the better. Philippians 4:6 encourages us not to be anxious about anything, for the Lord knows the desires of our hearts and will give them to us if we come to Him in prayer and supplication. Go about obtaining your dreams through honesty and patience. Wait upon The Lord and He will be sure to deliver unto you a wealth of what you need.

In Alex’s case she may have benefitted from these verses from King Solomon in Proverbs 9:17 and 18:

Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.”

Sin in any form is a crippler. It is wise to note to your children that although hard to accept, God’s desires for you may not always be what you want, but what you need.

I initially liked this movie, although the issues I magnified in this review bothered me more after the viewing—when I had time to really think about them. In conclusion, I stand with Micah 6:8 “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Neutral—In “Wicker Park” there are interesting love/hate relationships that takes place. The main character (Josh Hartnett) sees a young lady, falls in love, and has to move. We find this character engaged to another when he stumbles upon his first love. From this point lies are added upon lies and there is a scene between Hartnett and a woman who impersonates his “lost love.” At the end of the scene (and evening) they end up in bed together. If Hartnett’s character really loves Diane Kruger’s character, why does Hartnett end up in bed with another? From this standpoint this is not a good movie to see. If you would like to see the cinematography, it is an okay film. I would not take younger kids to see this movie without an explanation of God’s expectations vs. man’s. If a parent wants to teach a lesson about the detriments of obsession, then this would be a good film to see.
My Ratings: [Average/2]
Colby, age 29
Positive—My husband and I rented this movie and thought it was going to be a scary movie. It ended up not being a scary movie—but a very intense movie with a great ending. I won’t go into more detail because this one is worth seeing. However, there is a lot of free sex in this movie, so be advised about this. They don’t however show any nudity or actual acts of sex. In my opinion I thought this movie was great! Great acting and it kept you guessing until the end.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
Amy, age 35

Negative—“Wicker Park” is a mildly difficult film to follow due to the Director’s intentional goal of transitioning (without warning) back/forth through a 2 year period of time. Fortunately, I was not forced to endure the confusing timeline for long, due to the foul language of one of the characters. He takes the Lord’s name in vain in one of the most offensive forms. The moment he yelled G@#$%!M, my husband paused the movie and waited for me to leave the room before finishing up. He concluded that it was not such a good movie after all. No surprise here.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 2
Arlene Cline, age 40
Comments from young people
Positive—I believe this movie was excellent. Mostly every movie can be used for the good of the Lord. Although sex, and minor profanity was used, this was an interesting movie… everyone, everywhere, unless kept in a box (which would not help build a Christian’s integrity), will have exposure to sex and profanity in our modern times. Wicker Park shows a parallel story of how Jesus will never give up to find us, He loves us as much as Matthew in this film loved Lisa. The sexual references were kept quite classy compared to that of other PG-13 movies… guard your heart because of the sexuality… but open up your heart to the power of love.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
Tiffany Owens, age 16
Positive—I personally am not usually a fan of movies that can be a little confusing, or almost morbid. But I was very intrigued by this one. You are interesting throughout the movie, anxious to see the next part to find out exactly what’s going on. I would even comfortable seeing this with my parents, the brief love scene was done tastefully. You can’t help but notice how good the camera work was in the movie. I would see it again for sure.
My Ratings: [Average/4½]
Kelli Reagle, age 17
Movie Critics
…sports a lazy, liberal attitude toward sex and cohabitation…
Eddie Turner, Movieguide
…These metropolitan twentysomethings are foolish, selfish and unethical…
Bob Smithouser, Plugged In
…entered theaters without much buzz will leave in pretty much the same way…
Robert Denerstein, Rocky Mountain News
…“Wicker Park” isn’t actually 36 hours long, it just feels that way…
Tom Long, The Detroit News