Continuing some of my favorite movies.
I recently rewatched Wicker Park. This is a movie that relies on its delivery of the information and the information that it withholds from the audience. We enter the story from the present, as Josh Hartnett’s character, Matt, is about to embark on a business trip to China that is very important to his company. He is also shopping for a ring, for a proposal that he doesn’t seem to be 100% certain of. He arrives at a lunch with the American branch of the company that he is doing business with when he runs into his friend Luke, who he hasn’t seen for 2 years. Not since he left Chicago. This is important, because the rest of the movie will flash back and forth between now and then. At the restaurant he catches a glimpse of someone that reminds him of Lisa, a girl from that 2 years ago past. This leads to a discovery of a room key in the phone booth that this mystery woman was in and the opening of a mystery.
There are two mysteries at play here: was this Lisa/ where did she go, and what happened 2 years ago when they parted.
Matt blows off his flight to China to investigate the hotel and finds a compact that he believes to be hers. He also passes out due to a sleeping pill he had taken in expectation of getting on the flight. This sets up a reasonable amount of disorientation necessary for the rest of the story. We learn that Matt and Lisa met by chance and quickly fell in love. We learn that he got a job offer in New York and that he asked her to move in with him. She walks out of the bar before she gave him an answer and then disappearson a sudden tour of Cabaret on Europe (she’s a dancer). He’s naturally gutted. And he goes to New York. Back in the present we learn of a funeral from a clue in the hotel room and of a stalker/ ex returning an apartment key. He takes the key and later visits the apartment discovering a completely different girl there, also named Lisa. After a small altercation due to mutual panic, they settle down and have a drink while he explains, and get drunk which leads to him staying the night, which leads to her seducing him. The next morning, we get some more of the backstory from her perspective.
And the movie continues like this, parceling out the information as it constantly raises the urgency. This is a movie that plays as a thriller, suggesting the possibility of danger. It substitutes violence for longing and pain and obsession. By the end we learn all of the answers in a story that has continually overlapped its narratives and everyone is a little shattered as we end in the airport, which is ripe with symbolism as anything else.
Even though I know the twists and turns if this story, it still draws me in. I can see the details in the background that are so cleverly obscured on the first viewing, but I don’t lose any of the anxiety in the telling. I know where they will end up in the end, but the movie’s structure still makes me uncertain of that resolution. In the end everything seems properly summed up in one of the character’s lines: “Love makes us do crazy things.”
More later …