Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wickered Obsession

Let’s cut to the obvious chase: Wicker Park looks like a really bad movie. The DVD cover is, like The Weather Man, yet another great example of bad marketing. The movie isn’t particularly sexy nor is it a thriller. It's dangerous from an emotional standpoint, but not in sexy or thrilling ways. (This leads me to believe that “In Touch Weekly” was either misquoted or they’re out of touch.)

Wicker Park isn’t a bad movie, but it appears toxic by default. It does, after all, star Josh Hartnett, and his presence is by no means a guarantee of quality (although his track record is fairly sound all things considered). It co-stars Matthew Lillard (Shaggy from the Scooby Doo “movies”), an actor whom I used to consider toxic. I’ve chilled on that opinion, maybe even due to he of all things Shagadelic – it cannot be a simple task to so perfectly recreate a cartoon character in the flesh, especially when the material so blatantly sucks (then again…what can one expect from movies based on a mumbling, talking dog?).

Wicker Park was released almost exactly two years ago, during the dreaded early-September timeframe when there's a lot of crap at the cinema (go check your current movie listings). I saw it when I was doing radio movie reviews, and the pickins were slim (the only other choice that Friday was the Mel Gibson-produced Paparazzi). Aside from bad marketing, Wicker Park’s got a few other things in common with The Weather Man:

1) It takes place in Chicago and is mostly set during winter.
2) One of its stars, Diane Kruger, was in National Treasure with Nic Cage.
3) Like The Weather Man, Wicker Park also has nothing to do with Cage’s most recent film, The Wicker Man.

Ok, so it’s got more in common with my Weather Man review than The Weather Man itself…six degrees is feeling mighty chilly, isn’t it? Forgive the obvious padding: Wicker Park is all about the surprise twists and going into too much detail wouldn't give you as much reason to check it out.

It's about obsession – not a stunningly original concept…but again, go back to the Weather Man review and check out the Roger Ebert quote about halfway down. Wicker Park succeeds in that it completely avoids the standard clichéd trappings of violent repercussions stemming from obsession. Nor does it ever threaten violence, which when dealing with the concept, is something of a rarity (the trailer even sold it as a Single White Female/Fatal Attraction type of film, which it isn't).

Hartnett, who sometimes looks like a young Anthony Perkins, plays Matthew, a successful businessman, who - - - wait a minute…allow me to go somewhere else, as this could get revealing. I cannot know whether Morgue readers have ever felt intense obsession for another - I have, and a couple different times, too. I've never gotten violent with anyone, although it may have appeared I was on the verge…that Scorpio intensity is a helluva thing. When my ex and I parted ways years ago, the emotions I displayed at the time could easily have been viewed as obsessive, and indeed, they probably were. I did some stalking, made dozens of painfully pathetic phone calls, wrote letter after letter - I put more pen to paper with thoughts of the relationship than I'd ever done in the collective years prior. I thought of her just now because she had an Anthony Perkins obsession (ahem…"fixation" - clearly I am not one to judge).

Obsession is both an ugly and a beautiful thing: Ugly to the obsessee, but beautiful to the obsessor. When you’re smack in the middle of it - despite all logic and reason - what you’re doing is the only thing that makes any sense. You pour so much passion and thought into it that you can’t see any other way to go about things. It’s only years later that you look back and think, “Now who was that sick fuck, again? ‘Cause I don’t see him/her today.” Yet existing in that state makes you feel so damn alive, and an obsessive is a hell of lot more interesting to observe than a passive. (After all, that's why you visit the Morgue, right?)

There are two different types of obsessions displayed in Wicker Park, and I was down with 'em both. They’re obsessions I understand – and wager others would, too, because they don’t require resorting to boiling rabbits and wielding cutlery for fulfillment. Somewhere around the halfway mark, due to Rose Byrne, Wicker Park seduced me. She’s an actress of whom I was unaware at the time, but these days keep an eye out for. Her character, Alex, is the fourth and most pivotal. Because she was unknown to me (and probably still is to most) her casting was ideal, as the story requires that Alex exist on its fringe. She has a scene near the end that’s crucial to emotionally bringing the entire affair together in one fell swoop. If you’ve ever experienced obsession as I have, you’ll understand Alex in a way that makes you love her more than the other three characters. Hartnett's Matthew understands her, too - and as well he should.

For a period of time after seeing Wicker Park, I became obsessed with Rose Byrne herself. And brave readers will now fill the talkback with their own sordid, pathetic tales of obsession.

FYI: Wicker Park is a remake of the 1996 French film The Apartment, a movie I haven't seen, but wish I had...because '96 is coincidentally the very year I went all psycho-obsessive. The Apartment has nothing to do with the Billy Wilder film of the same name, Nicolas Cage or The Wicker Man.