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Wicker Park is a 2004 romantic psychological thriller directed by Paul McGuigan. The movie is a remake of the 1996 French movie L'Appartement. It was nominated for the Grand Prix at the Montreal Film Festival. Intricately moving back and forth in time and revealing the story from each character's perspective, Wicker Park is an intense psychological drama about a triangular love affair between a young photographer, Matt (Josh Hartnett), a dancer, Lisa (Diane Kruger) and an actress, Alex (Rose Byrne). Matt falls deeply in love with Lisa before she suddenly disappears without a trace. Two years later, he thinks he catches a fleeting glimpse of her in a local bar and begins a twisting search to find her and discover what really happened.

Central Theme

Wicker Park is a story about human accomplishment and romantic fulfillment. Matt and Lisa are powerfully attracted to one another, yet life intervenes to separate them for two years and forces them to struggle intensely to overcome the separation. The ostensible source of opposition is the scheming action of Alex, a young actress who is as intensely attracted to Matt as Matt is attracted to Lisa and takes active initiative to keep the lovers apart. But apart from Alex’s conscious actions, life itself raises many other obstacles to their reunion, separating them at a crucial moment in their relationship and preventing them from contacting one another by a series of missteps and near misses.

The film depicts a subtle play of inner and outer forces. The final outcome is determined by the relative intensity of the psychological attraction and interaction between the three main characters. This contrasts with the forces that drive the action in Pride & Prejudice, which are predominantly social rather than psychological. The initial impetus is generated by Alex’s intense seeking for Matt, who is unaware of her feelings or even her existence. Alex is deeply motivated and pursues her goal unrestrained by scruples of conscience or social restraint. As if by contagion, Matt responds to Alex’s secret passion by developing an equally intense passion for Lisa. Though he is intensely attracted to Lisa, his general shyness and diffidence become barriers to fully expressing the force of that attraction. There is no doubt that Lisa is also intensely attracted to Matt, but she hesitates to commit when Matt first proposes they move in together. That hesitation may partly arise from an apparent conflict between personal commitment to Matt and pursuit of her own career. In addition Lisa exhibits a general reluctance to commit as symbolized by her efforts to escape two other former lovers. That hesitation becomes a barrier to the relationship she intensely wants with Matt. Matt’s shyness and restraint and Lisa’s hesitation create an opening for Alex’s unreserved drive to find expression. Circumstances conspire, including the direct actions of the lovers, to place Alex in a position where she can manipulate their actions and interactions to her own advantage.

The story also depicts the development of Matt’s character from shy, boyish infatuated youth to a man capable of making difficult decisions and following his convictions until they are finally consummated in the accomplishment he has longed for. We are left still wondering why life would keep two people who are so strongly and positively attracted to one another apart for so long and put them through so much suffering and disappointment. Life in us and in the world seeks intensity. The easy meeting and original union of the lovers was delightful and satisfying, but their reunion after long separation was profoundly moving and unimaginably intense. Two years of separation acted to deepen, intensify and develop the personality of both so that they could become more fitting vessels for the love that arose between them.

Synopsis & Commentary

The movie presents the course of events through a series of flashbacks viewed from the perspective of different characters so that it is extremely difficult for viewers to grasp the actual chain of events until very late in the film. This detailed synopsis of the action describes the course of events in their actual time sequence in order to bring out the factors governing and the forces determining the outcome of each small occurrence in the story.

The Triangle

Alex is a young theater actress working in Chicago who falls in love with an aspiring photographer named Mathew who she sees walking in Wicker Park, but has never spoken to. Mathew remains unaware of her intense attraction to him until very late in the story, but the intensity of Alex’s attraction is the major driving force not only for her actions but also for other life events that unfold.

Lisa is a beautiful young dancer whose apartment back windows face those of Alex. Alex notices and is attracted to befriend Lisa. The two girls meet when Lisa is trying to escape from a boyfriend who she has just learned has been sleeping with another woman. Alex and Lisa become friends and start spending time together. When Alex films Lisa reciting lines from King Lear with her video camera, they discover that the camera sound system is not working, so Alex leaves it for repair at the camera shop where Mathew is working.

Mathew views the recording and instantly falls in love with the beautiful Lisa. When Lisa accompanies Alex back to the camera store to collect the repaired camera, Alex tells her of her attraction to a certain man to whom she has not yet spoken and Lisa encourages her to approach him. At this and several other points in the story, Lisa inadvertently acts in a manner that is contrary to her own best interests. It suggests a subconscious reluctance on her part which contributes to the drama.

While he is examining Alex’s camera, Mathew sees the real Lisa through the camera viewfinder and rushes out of the shop in pursuit of her. Alex has observed Matt through the window and goes into the shop to distract him, but he runs past her and she knocks down some display material. Their collision presages the conflict of interests between them which unfolds subsequently. Alex’s unexpressed infatuation for Matt is a vibration which is contagious. Matt responds to that vibration not by taking interest in Alex, but by awakening similar feelings for Lisa. As Alex pursues Matt, who does not know she exists, Matt sets off in anonymous pursuit of Lisa whose image has captivated his heart. Earlier events presage the final outcome. Alex’s failure to even catch Matt’s attention during her first attempt to approach him at the park and this second attempt at the camera shop are indicative of her final failure to win him as a lover.

Matt follows Lisa to the dance studio where she is rehearsing and secretly admires her from a distance. Later he goes to visit his friend Luke who runs a women’s shoe store to tell Luke about his infatuation with Lisa. As he is speaking of her, he sees Lisa looking in the shop window. The intensity of Matt’s feeling for her and her subconscious response to it have unconsciously drawn her to the very place where Matt is speaking of her. Their eyes meet and Matt is speechless. When she enters the shop, Matt pretends he is a shoe salesman and offers to serve her. Lisa is obviously aware of his attraction to her. She suggestively places her foot on his knee when he bends over to fit her with a shoe. The red healed shoes which she wants are not available in her size, so Matt offers to order them and call her when they come in. She confronts him with the fact that he followed her to the dance studio, then offers to meet him the following evening at a coffee shop. Lisa is bold and confident. She is flattered by Matt’s attentions and obviously also attracted to him at first sight. She takes the first initiative to contact Matt by coming into the store, placing her foot on his knee and offering to meet him.

Lisa and Matt fall deeply in love and find intense delight in each other’s company. After three months, Matt is offered a good job opportunity with an ad agency in New York, but tells Lisa he would rather remain in Chicago and have her move in with him. Rather than immediately responding to his request, she promises to meet him at Wicker Park the following afternoon and asks him to trust her. Why does Lisa hesitate to answer Matt immediately when shortly thereafter she tells Alex that she will definitely accept his invitation? Matt says he is willing to give up a big job opportunity in New York in order to remain with Lisa. Although she clearly loves him, it is possible that she is not sure that she would be willing to forego her career advancement at this point to remain with him in Chicago. His decision would in turn bind her to make a similar decision should the situation present. In fact, it does present that very night for her and she chooses to go, although that choice does not require her to refuse Matt’s proposal. In any case it suggests that Lisa and Matt have different attitudes regarding the relative importance of career advancement and that difference immediately surfaces in subsequent events. In addition, it may well be that Lisa is afraid and hesitant to commit even in circumstances where her whole heart wants to. The tiny hesitation to respond immediately to his offer may be the result of her rush to get to rehearsal on time and her desire to consider or discuss all the ramifications of his proposal more leisurely the following day. Nevertheless, it surprises and disappoints Matt. It is a small significant event that indicates deeper psychological forces opposing their relationship. In practice, it becomes the tiny crack through which the lovers are separated for two whole years.

Lisa’s disappearance

That evening a sudden opportunity arises for Lisa to join a European dance tour when another dancer is injured. She has to leave Chicago that very night. Unable to reach Mathew by phone to inform him, she leaves several messages on his answering machine. Finally she writes a letter of explanation and gives it to Alex along with a key to Matt’s apartment, asking Alex to give it to him or leave it there. All this time she is unaware that Alex is deeply in love with Matt and intensely jealous of her relationship to him. Why does life present a sudden opportunity that conspires to separate the lovers? The most overt reason is Alex’s intense psychological resistance to their relationship. Her desire to win Matt, who still does no know of her existence, is a force that lures Lisa a way. But if that were all, it may not have been powerful enough to overcome the lovers’ mutual attraction. From her side, Lisa hesitates, even if that hesitation appears ever so slight. From Matt’s side, he is constrained by shyness and doubt whether Lisa will accept. Alex is the only one who feels and acts with unreserved determination. The fact that Lisa is unable to reach Matt by phone despite repeated attempts reflects the barrier between them. The fact that she then entrusts her letter to the one person on earth who is opposed to their union indicates a deeper resistance to commitment in Lisa which only the pain of long separation can overcome.

Alex deletes the messages from Matt’s answering machine and keeps the letter. When Matt goes to Wicker Park the following day, he does not find Lisa. Inquiring at her studio, he learns she has suddenly rushed off to Europe without even leaving a message for him. He is bewildered and heart-broken. Meanwhile Alex speaks to Lisa in Europe and informs her that she found Matt in bed with another girl. Lisa gives up her attempts to contact Matt. Here Alex takes her first conscious initiatives to interfere when the opportunity is placed right in her lap. She reveals an unscrupulous, selfish character that will stop at almost nothing to achieve its own objectives. Note that she is willing to hurt both her close friend, Lisa, and the man she purports to ‘love’. Her feelings can at best be classified as intense physical attraction, vital possessiveness and vital desire and reveal nothing of true concern or caring for either of the lovers. Desire can become blunted under pressure; selfishness too can be restrained. But selfishness energised by desire is a force that breaks all barriers.

Chance Meeting at Bellucci’s

The movie actually begins two years later. Then we learn that sometime after Lisa’s abrupt departure, Matt moved to New York and developed a relationship with Rebecca, the sister of a successful businessman. Two months ago Matt and Rebecca moved back to Chicago and Matt accepted a job working in her brother’s firm. We see Matt looking at engagement rings at a jewelry store, but come away undecided. Under obvious pressure from Rebecca’s brother and her own anticipation, it is not just the ring he cannot decided upon, but whether he really loves Rebecca enough to propose. The contrast between his earlier behavior toward Lisa and his present behavior toward Rebecca makes it clear that he does not. The pressure arising from this choice releases his deeper aspiration for Lisa and sets in motion the chain of events which eventually lead to their reconciliation.

Matt then goes to Bellucci’s restaurant for a meeting with Rebecca, her brother and their Chinese clients prior to his scheduled departure for China that evening. Outside the restaurant, Matt runs into Luke, whom he has not seen since his return to Chicago and Matt promises to come to the store the following Monday after his return from China. Luke is a link to Matt’s past and his relationship with Lisa. Their chance meeting is another indication from life that the suppressed issue is surfacing to be dealt with.

Luke, who has been dating Alex for two weeks, walks Alex to the restaurant and runs into Matt outside the door after she has gone inside. Unknown to Matt, Lisa is also living at a new place in Chicago and remains friends with Alex. By coincidence, Alex and Lisa have agreed to also meet at Bellucci’s the same day. It is unclear how or why Alex has started dating Luke. It is possible that she knew of Matt’s prior friendship with Luke, but there is no evidence to indicate it nor to explain why she would suddenly forge a relationship with Luke two years later. Most likely the meeting and dating of Luke and Alex was another ‘chance’ event indicative of the unresolved issues that were surfacing for resolution. Both Alex and Luke served as original links between Matt and Lisa – Alex through her video camera and Luke through his shoe store. There fortuitous meeting now indicates what is to come. Before life could bring Matt and Lisa back into direct contact, it brought Alex into contact with Luke.

Lisa is already inside waiting for Alex and is sitting at a corner table near the bar. Alex sits down at a table on the other side of the restaurant waiting for Lisa. Suddenly she glances over and sees Matt sitting at a table with Rebecca’s brother and their Chinese clients. Then she sees Lisa sitting in the opposite corner. Terrified that Lisa and Matt might run into each other and finding that cell phones do not work inside the restaurant, she rushes out the door and collides with Rebecca who is on her way in. Then she goes outside and calls the restaurant bar asking for Lisa. Physically, Matt is sitting between Lisa and Alex on opposite sides of the room, representing his psychological position between two opposing forces. Alex collides with Rebecca who is the third woman seeking to win Matt. He is at the center of a triangle surrounded on all sides. As Alex brushed aside Alex at the camera shop, Alex overpowers Rebecca.

Lisa goes down the hall to an enclosed phone booth to take the call from Alex. Alex tells her that she was called to the hospital and has to cancel their meeting at the restaurant. Lisa tells Alex that she is being harassed by Daniel, the husband of a woman who very recently died in a hit and run car accident. Lisa says she is not convinced it was an accident. Daniel discovered that Lisa had taken a room at the Drake Hotel to avoid him, so now Lisa asks permission to stay temporarily with Alex. Rebecca joins Matt for the luncheon party. She gives Matt a sedative to calm his nervousness, which she assumes is due to his dislike of flying and the responsibilities he has been assigned on the China trip. When the Chinese client proposes a toast to their impending marriage, Matt chokes on the words before the client has a chance to clarify that he is referring to the marriage of their two companies. Matt and Lisa are again coming into proximity just at the moment that Lisa is trying to break off her affair with Daniel. The end of her relationship with Daniel revives feelings for Matt which she had suppressed two years earlier. The death of Daniel’s wife and his efforts to forge a closer relationship with Lisa raise fear in Lisa regarding the true cause of the wife’s death as well as a hesitation to commit arising from the fact that her heart still belongs to Matt. So the events at Bellucci’s are intelligible both from Lisa’s and Matt’s point of view. Matt’s nervousness arises from the fact that he is being pressurized to commit to a woman he does not love. Lisa is being pursued by a man she fears and does not want to commit to. Both circumstances revive their deep, unfulfilled longings for each other. That longing brings them into proximity. Alex’s intense desire to prevent their meeting and her alert response to the situation prevent them from actually making direct contact.

Excusing himself, Matt gets up and walks to the phone booth which he finds occupied. Nervous and impatient, he enters the adjacent men’s room and takes the sedative. Through the vent, he overhears Lisa speaking on the phone to Alex and later shouting at a man to leave her alone. Thinking her voice sounds like Lisa’s, he rushes out of the bathroom just in time to see a woman disappear down the hall back into the restaurant. Rushing after her, he sees the woman stumble and break the heel on her red high heel shoes before disappearing out the door. He is unable to follow her because Rebecca is sitting immediately in his path. Matt goes back to the phone booth and thinks that he recognizes a familiar fragrance in the air. He then finds a folded newspaper with the keys to Lisa’s hotel room at the Drake. The proximity of his nervousness regarding marriage to Rebecca and the immediate contact with Lisa are indicative of the underlying forces driving events. The fact that Matt comes near to Lisa at the moment she is preoccupied with ending her relationship with Daniel shows that this is the issue which from her side is bringing them back together. Lisa unconsciously leaves the Drake Hotel room key, the clue that enables Matt to follow and eventually find her.

Matt begins his quest

From the restaurant, Rebecca takes Matt directly to the airport for his flight. Instead of leaving the country, Matt secretly exits the airport and goes to the Drake Hotel. He enters Lisa’s room using the key he had found. The room is empty but he finds a the compact which belonged to Lisa’s grandmother, though he does not seem to recognize it, and a torn newspaper article regarding the death of Daniel’s wife. Here too, Lisa has subconsciously left crucial clues for him to follow.

Matt then goes to Luke’s apartment and tells Luke that he thinks that he has found Lisa. He spends the night at Luke’s and borrows his car the next day to go to the cemetery where Daniel’s wife is to be buried. Luke asks him to return by 7 pm so that Luke can go out for date with Alex. As soon as Matt starts looking for Lisa, Alex comes into the picture. She is subconsciously alert and focused on preventing them from reconnecting.

After the burial ceremony, Matt follows Daniel to Lisa’s new apartment and hears Daniel calling her name as he knocks at the door. Finding no one home, Daniel pushes a note and the key to her apartment under the door. Matt manages to get the note and the key, open the door and examine the apartment. He cannot find anything that clearly identifies it as Lisa’s but he seems to sense that it is hers. Perhaps he does not even look too carefully, because he is convinced from the conversation her overheard in the phone booth and Daniel’s reference to the apartment owner as Lisa that it must surely be her. But for whatever reason, there are no obviously clues, such as photos to positively convince him it is her place.

Alex & Matt

Having promised to return Luke’s car by 6 pm so Luke can go out on a date with Alex, Matt replaces Daniel’s note with his own asking Lisa to call him at Luke’s number. Luke is angry with Matt because he has come back too late for Luke’s date with Alex. The instability of the situation is reflected in Luke’s anger. His anger also reflects how tenuous is his position with Alex. Then Alex calls and Luke blames Matt for his delay. Unaware who Alex really is or what her relationship is to Lisa, Matt explains to her the reason for his delay and Alex urges him to return to the apartment to look for Lisa. Alex goes to Lisa’s apartment and reads the note then leaves again. After Luke leaves to pick Alex up for their date, Matt goes back to Lisa’s apartment in the hope of finding her there. Alex cancels her date with Luke and goes to Lisa’s apartment in the hope that Matt will also come there. When she finds Matt already inside, Alex pretends to be terrified of him as an intruder, bites Matt’s hand until it bleeds and threatens to call the police. She insists that this is her apartment, that her name is Lisa and that it was she whom he saw in Bellucci’s that afternoon. Matt concludes that he had been completely mistaken and tries to leave. Alex says she is frightened that Daniel may come back and pleads with him to sleep on the couch for the night. During the night she comes to him and seduces him, an expression of the intense attraction which she has felt for him since she first saw him in the park two years earlier.

This is Alex’s first meeting with Matt and her first attempt to forge a personal relationship with him. Her intense aspiration and clever scheming enable her to succeed this far, to the point where she can sleep with him. Beyond this point, her plan begins to unravel. She had sufficient strength and intensity to physically spend a night with him, but not to secure him in a long term relationship.

The next morning Alex returns to her own apartment to meet Lisa, urging Matt to remain at Lisa’s until she returns. Matt is so disappointed to learn that she is not his own Lisa that he decides to get on a flight the next night for China. Meanwhile Lisa tells Alex that she has decided to accept a job offer in London and also plans to leave Chicago the following night. She invites Alex to go with her, but Alex declines. Alex’s vital instincts have been flawless up to this point. Lisa’s have been fully flawed. She continues to place her trust in a person who is working against her.

Unraveling of the plot

Lisa discovers Matt’s patterned handkerchief in Alex’s purse and is almost sure she recognizes it as his. Alerted but not knowing why, she goes back to Bellucci’s and the bartender gives her Matt’s note asking her to call him at Luke’s. She now knows for sure that Matt is in Chicago and tries repeatedly to call him but without success. Matt is in the shower during one of her calls and misses the others when he goes out. In spite of her conscious efforts, life still prevents them from connecting, even when they are alert and moving so close. Still there is a barrier or an absence of sufficient strength to overcome the psychological forces that keep them apart.

Matt goes to American Airlines to pick up his ticket to China and is asked to come back at 4 pm for an upgrade to first class. Since he has not had a call from Lisa, he dismisses his intuition as imagination and drops the key to her apartment in the sewer drain out side the airline office. He tells Luke the whole story and agrees on Luke’s prompting to come to the theater to be introduced to his girlfriend Alex before his departure for China. Matt returns to the airline office, picks up his ticket and then tries to recover the key he dropped in the drain a few hours earlier. Meanwhile Lisa enters the airline office, gets her ticket and comes out headed in his direction. Just then an old lady asks her for directions and Lisa walks in the opposite direction to show her the way, so she and Matt miss running into each other. Again they come within a few steps of one another and still life –not just Alex – conspires to keep them apart.

Reversal & Reunion

Matt goes back to Lisa’s apartment and finds the broken high-heeled shoes. He recognizes them as the one’s he sold to Lisa two years ago. He sees they are also her size. Again he becomes suspicious. That evening Matt goes to the theater to meet Luke as he had promised. Alex is playing a lead role in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, but she is disguised as a man, so Matt cannot recognize her as the girl he knows as the second Lisa. Alex sees Matt in the audience and is horrified by the realization of her own selfish acts – or at least by the thought that she will now be exposed. Even the lines she is reciting in the play speak directly to her actual situation in life. After the play, Matt leaves and goes back to Lisa’s apartment instead of leaving for China as planned. He finds all the clothes are gone because the real Lisa is leaving the next day for London. Meanwhile Luke spends the night sleeping with Alex at his place and Lisa sleeps alone at Alex’s. Alex seems genuinely happy to sleep with Luke. That sense of satisfaction reduces the power and force of her passion for Matt.

In the morning, Matt call’s Luke and Alex answers. He tells Luke that he feels certain this is actually Lisa’s apartment and has become suspicious of the coincidence of two girls with the same name and type of shoes. Alarmed that she may be exposed, Alex goes out and calls Matt (as Lisa) saying she will come to meet him at Lisa’s apartment. Meanwhile the real Lisa calls Luke’s number again trying to reach Matt and Luke answers. Lisa gives Luke a message for Matt, asking Matt to meet her at Wicker Park at 3 pm. Luke says that Matt is expected to return any moment and promises to give him the message. But Alex has asked Matt to wait at Lisa’s apartment, so he does not return to Luke’s. Rather Alex goes back to Luke’s and learns from him about Lisa’s call and her message for Matt. Alex feels her whole false edifice is beginning to crumble. She then goes to meet Matt at Lisa’s apartment. Matt gives her a new pair of shoes and learns that her shoe size is much smaller than the size of the broken pair. Convinced that she is lying and hiding the truth from him but unable to discern what it is, he leaves her. These events depict a reversal of the currents of life. Just as circumstances earlier conspired to aid Alex in her intrigues by preventing Matt and Lisa from making direct contact, now every event conspires to bring Matt and Lisa back together and to expose Alex’s charade. This shows that it is not just the conscious intention of the actors that matters, but much more the sum of the forces of life that are subconscious active. These forces are not entirely separate from the actors conscious intentions but rather also include their subconscious urges. The result at each moment depends on the accumulated force of intention in all the players. At this point both Lisa and Matt are alerted and determined to solve the mystery. Alex is filled with fear and regret, which means she now feels weak and is unable to control events. She has exhausted her boldness and her strength.

Alex calls Luke and asks him to meet her at a restaurant so that Luke will not be home to deliver Lisa’s message when Matt goes there. Matt meets Luke and Luke asks him to come along so he can introduce Matt to Alex whom he has not yet met. Matt sees Alex sitting at the table and discovers that Alex and the second Lisa are one and the same person. Matt confronts her. She shamelessly admits she has been keeping them apart and that she has been in love with him for two years. Luke then tells Matt of Lisa’s message asking him to meet her at Wicker Park at 3 pm and that she will go directly to the airport from there for a flight to London. Alex’s last initiative to preserve her charade was to try to keep Luke and Matt apart. That too failed and she is now helpless.

Matt rushes to the park but is too late to meet her there. He then goes to the airport. He thinks he sees Lisa in the distance. Just then Rebecca comes up to him saying she had come to meet his return flight from China but he was not on it. Matt must deal with Rebecca before he can be reunited with Lisa. He has to confess the truth of his feelings to Rebecca before the action arising from the falsehood of Alex’s actions can be fully removed. Matt explains that an old love has returned to his life and that he cannot marry her. Rebecca leaves in bitterness. Both Matt and Lisa are now at a peak of expectation. They both know the other is nearby and where and when they should meet. At this point their excitement and expectation postpone the meeting.

Meanwhile, Alex has called Lisa and explained that it was she who has kept Matt and Lisa apart all these years. Lisa breaks down in tears and kneels on the floor of the terminal. Finally Matt sees her, approaches and they unite. Alex reverses with a confession to Lisa. That confession removes the final doubt in Lisa’s mind that was originally plants by Alex’s lies to her about Matt’s unfaithfulness. Matt’s confession to Rebecca removes the final impediment in his mind. When both these doubts are cleared, the two lovers are finally able to meet for the first time.

Insights into the Characters

  1. Mathew
    • The story provides no background information about Mathew to aid us in understanding his character or behavior. At the beginning of the story, Matt is young, shy, boyish, light weight, immature and unformed personality. His basic character is positive and his intentions are good, but he is easily carried away by the impulses of the moment. He shows little drive or seriousness in pursuit of his profession and willing gives up the opportunity in New York in order to remain with Lisa.
    • We never doubt the sincerity or intensity of his attraction to Lisa, but when she suddenly disappears he does not persist in trying to solve the mystery. He neither followed her to Europe or as far as we know tried to contact her on her return. This shows a lack of strength and persistence in his character, a lack of real character formation. We tend to believe that a man such as Darcy in Pride & Prejudice would not have given up so easily, when they are so deeply in love.
    • From Matt’s point of view, he needs to develop the strength of character proportionate to the intensity of the feelings he has for Lisa. Without that development, he lacks the capacity to hold on to her. Life presents him with the opportunity to acquire that strength. First, it forces him to accept life separated from her and to pursue his own career. Second, it forces him to risk the security of his relationship with Rebecca and the good job with her brother’s firm in order to search for Lisa after their near meeting at Bellucci’s.
    • By the end of the story we find that Matt has acquired a seriousness and strength he lacked earlier and he has solved the mystery and won back Lisa by means of his personal effort. Ultimately it is the strength and purity of one’s aspiration that determines the end result.
  2. Lisa
    • Lisa is very attractive, talented, bold and self-confident. We know almost knowing about Lisa except her profession and the fact that her parents are separated, her mother has required to her native Prague and her father lives in California. Lisa displays significant talent and interest in her profession which open up opportunities for advancement. She is extremely attractive and has difficulties in her relationships with men. The first boyfriend we hear about has been sleeping with another woman, which may suggest that Lisa lacks the false arts to keep a man she likes insecure and in constant pursuit. She exhibits the self-confidence and courage to openly make advances to Matt, placing her foot on his knee in the shoe store, offering to meet him for a date, kissing him in the car, and pulling him into her apartment to make love. Her forward behavior is a parallel to Alex’s aggressiveness.
    • From Lisa’s side, there are one or two reasons for the long separation from Matt. One is her general suspicion about men and reluctance to commit, especially after the unfaithfulness of her previous boyfriend. Later she seems to have no difficulty suspecting that Daniel has murdered his own wife. Second is her commitment to her career and her reluctance to make commitments that will limit her development as a dancer. Regardless of the source, something in her acts as an obstacle to her relationship with Matt. Her instinctive reliance on Alex as a messenger makes sense superficially but reflects a lack of subconscious perception which women in love are often possessed of. The fact that she so readily believed Alex’s lies about Matt suggests a want of discrimination and persistence in her character as well. Lisa’s sense of mistrust attracts untrustworthy behavior, but from Alex, not from Matt.
    • The death of Daniel’s wife and his continued pursuit of her revive consciousness of her lost relationship with Matt and create the conditions for them to reunite.
  3. Alex
    • Alex is a selfish, lonely young woman with strong emotions, no apparent friends, and no hesitation to employ falsehood and conspiracy to get what she wants.
  4. Luke
    • Luke is a not very bright, light-weight character who is unsuccessful with women though he pretends otherwise by falsely bragging to Matt.
    • Luke was originally agent of goodwill for Matt – Lisa and Matt met at his store. Now he becomes an unintended agent of Alex’s conspiracy, supplying her vital information at several points which she uses to keep Lisa and Matt apart. Luke’s unintentional act of breaking the mirror reflects the negative role he will play in the drama. Subconsciously Luke may be jealous of Matt’s success in love when he himself has had nothing but disappointments. Having failed in his romantic pursuits over the past few years, it is difficult for him to now act as a positive instrument for Matt’s fulfillment with Lisa. It requires a very big heart to help another succeed where one has failed.

Insights into the Character of Life

  1. According to a deeper view of life, all events which occur at the same time or at same place are related to one another in some manner. Often the relationship is in the form of a correspondence between the events, a mirror image, similarity or even a reverse expression of the same type of situation.
    • There is a direct correspondence between the feeling and manner with which Alex relates to Matt and the way in which Matt initially relates to Lisa from a distance. Both secretly admire and follow the person they are attracted to without expressing themselves. Alex sees Matt in the park and follows him. Matt sees Lisa in the street and follows her.
    • Matt pretends to be a shoe salesman. Alex pretends to be Lisa. Here too the correspondence is direct. Matt’s innocent pretense is a sanction in life for Alex’s not so innocence impersonation of Lisa later on. Regardless of how we may judge the event, life regards them both as pretense and the first becomes a sanction for the second.
    • There is an inverse relationship or correspondence between Lisa’s actions toward Daniel and her earlier boyfriend and the events regarding her relationship with Matt. Lisa tried actively to avoid the two other lovers. Life prevents her from staying in touch with Matt. Her act of avoiding two men brings a situation in which her relationship with a third man is “avoided” by life.
    • The same act done by two different people has opposite consequences. Alex goes into the camera shop hoping to meet Matt but fails. Lisa goes into the shoe store willing to meet Matt and succeeds. This reflects the fact that Alex’s initiatives will eventually fail to win Matt and Lisa’s will eventually succeed in getting him back.
    • Lisa seeks help from Alex and stays at her apartment twice. The first time it leads to Lisa’s first meeting Matt by means of the video camera. The second time it enables Alex to interference preventing them from meeting. It is a basic law of life that seeking help from a person with ill will always backfires on the one who seeks that help. Lisa’s basic human instinct in befriending Alex is a mistake. The thing that attracts them intensely to one another is that they share or will share a common love for Matt.
    • Matt chokes when the Chinese toast to a successful marriage and when Alex toasts ‘to us’. The choking reveals his real feelings in both cases.
    • Alex collides with the camera store display. Then she collides with Rebecca at Bellucci’s. Her actions throughout the story are in conflict with the deeper feelings and intentions of other people. They succeed for a while through deceit, but are eventually exposed and negated.
  2. There are several instances in the movie where a story within the story mirrors the life situation in the main plot. The first instance is when Alex videotapes Lisa performing King Lear. In the play, the king’s daughter, Cordelia, refuses to flatter her father with an unreserved pledge of love as her sisters have done. She insists her first love would necessarily go to her future husband. This recording becomes the first contact between Lisa and Mathew. In Lear, Cordelia and her future husband Edgar are victims of a conspiracy by his brother Edmund and her sisters. They suffer long separation and great ordeals before they can be united. The same thing happens to Lisa and Matt. In the play, Cordelia refuses to offer her entire love to her father. In the life, Lisa appears hesitant to fully commit herself to Matt or any other man.
  3. Another instance of the play within the story reflecting truths of life is when Alex performs the part of Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Her part in the play mirror her own situation in life. In the play Viola is disguised as a man and woes Olivia on behalf of Duke Orsino when she herself is secretly in love with Orsino and Olivia has fallen in love with Viola thinking her a man. In both the play and in life, Alex is acting as an unwilling intermediary between a man and a woman when she herself is secretly in love with one of them. In the play Olivia loves Viola mistaking her for a man. In life, Lisa feels drawn to Alex mistaking her for a loyal friend. As Alex recites the lines, she sees Matt enter the theater and feels the truth of the lines she is reciting. “I am not what I am.” As the play proceeds, Alex seems to genuinely feel regret for what she has done to Lisa and Matt and resolves to end the charade. The tears she sheds in her room after the play and her call to Lisa express that decision.
  4. A story based on the conscious actions of one or several people merely illustrates the capacity of human beings for initiative. But in this story, many of the key events do not arise from the conscious actions or intentions of the main actors. They appear to be simply ‘coincidences’, but actually reflect deeper truths of life. We refer to these apparent coincidences as Life Response. In Wicker Park, it is not only Alex’s conscious initiatives that present obstacles to the relationship between Lisa and Matt. Life itself seems to constantly throw up barriers that prevent them from coming together which may be called negative life responses because they prevent fulfillment of the accomplishment which Matt and Lisa yearn for.
    • Lisa seems to be always running away from relationships. She wanted to accept Matt’s proposal but did not immediately respond. Immediately life took her away to Europe. The job offer in Europe is a life response to Matt’s proposal and Lisa’s hesitation. Lisa hesitates whereas Alex intensely pursues what she wants.
    • Matt and Lisa come so close to meeting at the phone booth in Bellucci’s, yet they narrowly miss each other. Matt is prevented from pursuing her because Rebecca is directly in his path.
    • When Lisa gets Matt’s note at Bellucci’s, she tries several times to call him at Luke’s. The first time he is in the shower and misses the call. Afterwards, he he goes out.
    • When Lisa exits the American Airlines office, an old lady distracts her attention so she fails to observe Matt.
    • By the time Matt learns that Lisa was staying at the Drake, Lisa has already left the hotel to escape Daniel.
    • By the time Matt finds out where Lisa is living, Lisa has already moved in with Alex to avoid Daniel.
    • Daniel’s wife’s death becomes a reason for Lisa to leave Chicago to escape Daniel.
    • When Matt comes to the airport looking for Lisa, he runs into Rebecca and temporarily loses site of Lisa.
  5. Later we see a reversal of this trend. Life continuously presents positive responses that help draw Lisa and Matt back together.
    • Lisa’s neighbor is in love with Matt before Lisa even meets Matt for the first time. This creates a subtle connection between Matt and Lisa through Alex.
    • Alex videos Lisa and takes the camera to Matt’s shop.
    • Matt falls in love with Lisa’s image on the videotape when Mare, the woman owner or technician at the camera store, projects it on the TV.
    • Lisa comes into Luke’s shoe store for the red pumps while Matt is there and talking about her to Luke.
    • The store does not have Lisa’s shoe size, so she has to give contact information to Matt.
    • Matt chances to see Lisa in the viewfinder when she is window shopping across the street.
    • On his return to Chicago two years later, Matt meets Luke outside Belluci’s.
    • Matt and Lisa both come to Bellucci’s independently on the day he is to leave for China.
    • Luke and Alex are already dating at the time they all meet at Bellucci’s. Alex met Luke when came into his shoe store just as Lisa had done two years earlier – perhaps with the intention of finding out if Matt had returned to Chicago. Two weeks later he did. A woman’s subtle intuition.
    • Matt is having second thoughts about making a more serious commitment in his relationship with Rebecca. When Matt goes into the jewelry store to select an engagement ring for Rebecca, the jeweler’s words compel him to look inside to examine his feelings. “In the end, it is not your eye that must decide.”
    • Matt goes to the phone booth while Lisa is inside it, because cell phones do not work in the restaurant.
    • Matt recognizes the lingering smell in the phone booth and at Lisa’s apartment. Lisa recognizes it on his handkerchief.
    • Lisa accidentally leaves the Drake room key and Matt finds it.
    • Lisa leaves the newspaper article on Daniel’s wife’s death in the hotel room at the Drake and Matt finds that along with the compact (which he does not seem to recognize as hers.)
    • Both Matt and Lisa go to the American Airline office the same day, at almost the same time to pick up tickets from the same agent.
    • Lisa calls Luke when Alex is not there.
    • Matt’s scheduled return flight from China is due just before Lisa’s flight to London is due to take off.
  6. Other significant small events
    • When Alex videos Lisa, Lisa tells her “You know the thing with acting, Alex, is you have to commit. Otherwise you are just a phony.” Later Alex commits to her act of impersonating Lisa.
    • The audio on Alex’s video camera does not work. This becomes the occasion for Lisa and Matt to meet the first time. But it also symbolizes the future difficulty in their relationship. Lisa’s image is visible but not the words which convey meaning. Matt could see Lisa in the video but could not hear her. After knowing each other, for two years they are unable to communicate.
    • On their way to the camera store, Alex asks Lisa is she believes in love at first sight which is what happened to all three of them. Lisa asks her who it is and says “Don’t even try to lie about it.” Alex ends up only lying about it. Lisa says “Don’t wait. The good ones go fast and asks Alex to speak with the man she loves. The good ones go very fast. Two minutes later Matt sees Lisa and falls in love with her. That is the power of the spoken word!
    • Luke breaks the mirror on Lisa’s compact: Matt had promises to return Luke’s car by 6 pm for a date at 7. He comes so late that Luke is sure he has lost the date with Alex. For several hours he has been waiting in frustration and anger at Matt for spoiling his date and expresses that anger when Matt appears. Matt makes good the situation by talking with Alex, but the power of Luke’s pent up anger must still express. It expresses in the broken compact. Matt was casual with regard to Luke’s feelings about his date. Luke is casual in handling compact.
    • Alex bites Matt’s hand and it bleeds: Alex may have been genuinely startled and frightened to find Luke already in Lisa’s apartment and sneaking up on her. Her instinctive response of biting him reveals her true character and role of inflicting pain in his life.



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