Despite its noxious intrusions into every corner of the public realm, the cell phone in the last decade has undoubtedly provided a boon to (among others) adulterous spouses, the chronically late, and people who enjoy discussing their sex lives on city buses. If only the recently minted advertising tyro Matthew (Josh Hartnett) had heard the word about these newfangled contraptions before the outset of Wicker Park, he would have spared himself and his girlfriend, Lisa (Diane Kruger)—who vanished from poor Matthew’s radar two years before Wicker Park‘s present-day sequences—a world of hurt. Bereft of mobile technology, the couple’s fortunes rest with handwritten, hand-delivered notes that are promptly snatched away by jealous third-party paws. At one crucial juncture, the coy mistress even demurs—fatefully, as it turns out—at an unseemly demand to leave a message after the beep. When Matthew asks his sweetheart in flashback to move to New York with him, Lisa replies, “Meet me tomorrow in the park, same time,” leaving the unmistakable impression that this comely pair of consenting adults isn’t yet indulging in sleepovers, or even good-night phone chats. One half-expects a horse-drawn buggy to come creaking down the snowy streets of Chicago.
Paul McGuigan’s dippy romantic thriller (a remake of the 1996 French hit L’Appartement) presents Matthew as a hapless sleuth unraveling the Lisa conundrum with the aid or hindrance of his maniacally cheerful best bud (Matthew Lillard) and a gormless, possibly sinister interloper also, oddly enough, named Lisa (Rose Byrne). The director effects a jet-lag blur of blissed-out past and bewildered present with all manner of disorienting expressionist tricks: freeze-frames, zoom-ins, superimpositions, electro-screeches on the soundtrack. The trick turned most wantonly in Brandon Boyce’s Swiss-cheese script, however, is coincidence, most notably when Matthew has a near-miss non-encounter with Lisa at O’Hare. The lovely Luddite, perhaps cowed again by phonephobia, apparently stopped by in person just to change her flight. Doesn’t love make us do the craziest things?