June 6, 2014
Paul Haggis is best known as the director of the movie "Crash", which was the controversial winner of the Oscar for Best Picture in 2006 over its closest rival "Brokeback Mountain." Haggis is also the first screenwriter to win Oscars for Writing for two consecutive years, "Million Dollar Baby" in 2005 and "Crash" in 2006. It was the name of Paul Haggis that drew me to check out "Third Person" without knowing anything else about it.
Like "Crash", "Third Person" is also a film with multiple interlocking story lines. I have liked movies like this since I have seen "Amores Perros" and "21 Grams." I have admired how the scriptwriters of these films managed to clearly tell three or four separate stories and then connect them to each other with an overarching bigger story.
In Paris, Michael (Liam Neeson), an aging Pulitzer-prize winning author who left his wife Elaine (Kim Basinger), is having an affair with a much younger aspiring writer Anna (Olivia Wilde). In Rome, Scott (Adrien Brody), an American businessman, gets entangled with the shady financial problems of a gypsy-like local lady Monika (Moran Atias). In New York, Julia (Mila Kunis), a poor divorcée, lost custody of her young son to her estranged husband Rick (James Franco) because of an unfortunate accident with a plastic laundry bag.
It was good to see Liam Neeson again in a straight drama, not in another action vehicle that he is wont to do lately. Olivia Wilde is daring, gorgeous and smart, the perfect femme fatale. Mila Kunis stands out in a very serious dramatic role. Her brutally-emotional confrontation scene with James Franco was amazingly acted out. Casting Ermenegildo Zegna model Adrien Brody as a man who rips off designer clothing is humorously ironic.
The underlying issue and conflict in all three stories was about trust. Anna's bizarre behavior is driving Michael nuts about her loyalty. On the other hand, Michael is using their stormy relationship as the subject of his book seemingly without Anna's consent. Monika's connection with a sleazy extortionist has Scott doubting her innocence. Rick cannot trust Julia anymore with even basic visitation rights to their son.
Even when the stories were set in three different cities, you occasionally see the characters and things tangentially intersecting, adding mystery and confusion. At the two hour mark, the three stories seem to be slowly losing their steam and getting nowhere without any detectable connection to each other.
However, just as I was losing hope as to this film's ability to end properly, suddenly a most surprising development comes up that actually manages to solidify the three disparate segments of this film into a single coherent whole. Paul Haggis has done it again to weave his magic with this inventive type of film story telling. 7/10.