This is one of those dopey thrillers that are frustrating to write about because I can’t tell you why it is dopey without spoiling the surprises. Even dumb surprises are sacrosanct according to the Code of the Critic. I’ll do my best, but if you want to avoid spoilers entirely, stop reading now.
Matt (Josh Hartnett) is an executive who has recently returned to Chicago after two years away. He has a good job and is about to propose to his girlfriend, who conveniently happens to be the sister of his boss. The three of them are at a swanky restaurant, having lunch with important clients to celebrate a deal Matt is about to close in China. Matt’s girlfriend slips him some pills to help him sleep on the plane and he swallows them at the restaurant. Then he hears the voice of a woman on the phone and the last two years seem to evaporate. It sounds like the voice of Lisa (Diane Kruger), the woman who broke his heart.
Flashback time. Matt is a sweet, shy, artistic guy working in a photography store. He glimpses a face on a videotape brought into his store for repair. And then he sees the same woman across the street. He follows her. He meets her at his best friend’s shoe store, pretending to be a salesman. He orders the black shoes with red soles in her size. They fall in love. And then…well, we don’t find out what happened then for a while as the movie shifts back and forth between the past and present and between different characters’ points of view.
It turns out to be one of those movies that sets up an intriguing puzzle and a nicely spooky vibe and then spoils it all by explaining much too much and having that explanation be both achingly obvious and sometimes unintentionally hilarious, retroactively dissipating any creepiness created earlier and dumb-ifying the entire story even further.
This is one of those movies that depends on its characters’ inability to make a phone call or ask a question to straighten things out. Just a few questions from me: why would Matt take the sleeping pills in the restaurant instead of waiting until he got on the plane? Why doesn’t anyone at this crucial meeting in China call back to the US to find out what is going on? Why would Luke fail to deliver the most important message of Matt’s life until it is almost too late? What happened to the stalker millionaire with the wife who died in the car accident? How does Matt go from being a low-level employee in a photo shop to being a big shot in a fancy suit in two years? Why does everyone, even the lady who works for the airline seem unable to resist Matt? Do stalkers become stalk-ees? Why did anyone think this script would work?
Matthew Lillard flounders in an attempt to play Matt’s best friend. Rose Byrne as a mystery woman who shares Matt’s girlfriend’s name and shoes is slightly more interesting than the drippy character she plays, but her efforts to play Viola/Cesario in “Twelfth Night” (a character in disguise who does not tell her love, get it?) are simply dreadful. Harnett and Kruger move through the story like sleepwalkers who hope they won’t wake up until the movie is over. I know how they feel.
Parents should know that the movie has brief strong language, some explicit sexual references, and non-explicit sexual situations. Characters drink and one becomes tipsy. There are tense and suspenseful situations and some jump-out-at-you surprises.
Families who see this movie should talk about the dividing line between love and obsession. Do you believe in love at first sight? What do you need to know about someone to be willing to make a commitment?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy thrillers like Frantic, The Vanishing, and the noir classic The Woman in the Window.