Few actors have less expressive eyes than Josh Hartnett. Dark abysses at the center of a vaguely simian face, they convey all the emotion and vulnerability of coal. Along with Hartnett's distracting slacker cadences, they prove an insurmountable handicap to his attempts to convey the florid brand of passion that his ultimately silly role in Wicker Park demands. At least he's not alone in being unequipped for the film. As she was in Troy, fetching newcomer Diane Kruger is called upon to display the kind of irresistible magnetism that inspires epic displays of worshipful devotion. And, as in Troy, she's nowhere near up to the task.
A stillborn remake of the 1996 French film L'Appartement set in a Chicago neighborhood synonymous with hipster gentrification, Wicker Park casts Hartnett as an up-and-coming young businessman who has moved to New York after ostensibly being ditched by Kruger, a dancer and the great love of his life. Upon his return to Chicago, Hartnett thinks he's spied Kruger and follows her, only to learn he's mistaken her for Rose Byrne, a lonely nurse clearly besotted with Hartnett. Wicker Park then doubles back on itself, layering flashback upon flashback, but instead of building toward a grand romantic climax, it just gets sillier before exploding into a torrent of unintended laughs.
The film desperately needs the sparks from Hartnett and Kruger's attraction to fuel its increasingly desperate plot, but the actors come across as little more than attractive ciphers whose relationship remains fatally underdeveloped. Where they leave a charisma deficit at Wicker Park's center, Byrne gives a performance far better than her surroundings deserve, radiating neediness and despair even as the film contorts into ever more unnatural shapes. Wicker Park would like to be a haunting meditation on destiny and fate, but its lukewarm pretzel of a plot merely provides yet another reminder that lazy coincidences remain the hack screenwriter's best friend.