Paul Haggis is one of Hollywood’s most highly respected
writer-producer-directors, having racked up two consecutive Best Film
Oscars for “Million Dollar Baby,” directed by Clint Eastwood, and
“Crash,” which he wrote and directed, winning an Academy Award for both
Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.
His other impressive screenplays include “Flags of Our Fathers” and
“Letters from Iwo Jima,” garnering Haggis another Oscar nomination.
He was also involved in the writing of “Casino Royale,” which was
instrumental in breathing new life into the James Bond franchise and
wrote, directed, and produced “In the Valley of Elah.”
Given his extraordinary excellence, expectations were high with
regard to his latest film, “Third Person,” which he also wrote,
produced, and directed.
But alas, into the most feted, a clinker must fall once in a while and, indeed, this film is that.
Using the “Crash,” template, Haggis wrote three different stories set
in Paris, Rome, and New York, with the characters to eventually
Disappointingly, what is on the screen are uneven narratives with
huge missing plot points that even the most gifted Liam Neeson or Adrien
Brody couldn’t overcome and their performances, for the most part,
could be described as actors in search of a character.
Briefly, the first story, which takes place in Paris, revolves around
Michael, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author played by Neeson.
He is in the City of Lights to write his next novel, his last few not reaching the literary heights of the first.
Michael’s love interest is somewhat of a psycho girlfriend played by
Olivia Wilde, a budding journalist whose idea of a fun experience is
running through a hotel bare-assed naked, much to the amusement of the
security guards watching her on camera.
There’s also Kim Basinger in a cameo role as the suffering wife who,
despite knowing about his affair, wants him to come back to New York
after he finishes his latest book in which his girlfriend seems to play a
big, but perhaps unwanted role, and maybe that’s his reason for keeping
her close to his chest, literally and figuratively speaking.
The second story features Adrien Brody as Scott, a crafty thief who steals Italian designs for an American company.
He meets gypsy Monika in a bar, played by Moran Atias, whose
character appears to have a dubious moral compass and clearly doesn’t
wish to be bothered. There is no reason for Scott to pursue her and
force his help on this elusive stranger.
But, despite her protestations, he gets himself involved in her life, meeting some very nasty people along the way.
Some of the action borders on ridiculous, as there is no logical
reason for Brody’s character to embroil himself so deeply in her life,
especially when he thinks she and the bad guys might have set up a scam
with him up as a mark.
The third, and perhaps more plausible, is the sequence between James
Franco (Rick) a successful artist who paints with his hands instead of a
brush, and Julia (Mila Kunis), whose career as a soap star is on the
skids and now she works as a cleaning lady in upscale hotels.
First she’s in Paris and now she’s working in a hotel in New York.
Yes, a bit confusing because we don’t know how she got there or why she
goes postal and wrecks a room full of flowers.
Anyway, Rick has sole custody of their son and because she did something terrible to their son, she is not allowed to see him.
The most touching, authentic moment in the entire film is when Rick
promises her something if she confesses that she did hurt their child,
which a very emotional Kunis pulls off.
However, once she confesses, the promise is rescinded and Rick goes
caveman. Maria Bello as Julia’s attorney waging the battle for joint
custody gives a creditable performance considering she didn’t have much
to work with.
The technical aspects of the film, however, are spot on with the team
consisting of Director of Photography Gian Filippo Corticelli;
Production Designer Laurence Bennett; Music by Dario Marianelli, and
Editor Jo Francis, who accomplished some nice cross cutting in trying to
merge the action.
One could only hope that the extremely talented Haggis has something
in the works that’s more in keeping with his very high standard of
Sony Pictures Classics
Written & Directed by: Paul Haggis
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maria Bello, Mila Kunis Kim Basinger, Adrien Brody, Olivia Wilde, James Franco, and Moran Atias
Running Time: 137 Minutes
In General Release
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