Liam Neeson as Michael and Olivia Wilde as Anna in "Third Person."
By Barbara Vancheri / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Aaw. Now it all makes sense.
Filmmaker Paul Haggis ends “Third Person” with a dedication: “For my father Ted who taught me to take risks.”
The gamble in “Third Person” is keeping the audience treading water for nearly 137 minutes before revealing how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. “Crash” had the pace of a swimmer churning through the water with freestyle or butterfly strokes, while “Third Person” is closer to meandering in an inner tube along a gentle body of water.
'Third Person' movie trailer
Three interlocking love stories involving three couples in three cities: Rome, Paris, and New York.
It‘s well acted, with standout performances by Mila Kunis and James Franco, but it’s maddening at times. The movie glides from Paris to Rome to New York and back again and again, with seamless editing and an impressive cast led by Liam Neeson as a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer.
He is separated from his wife (Kim Basinger) and struggling with a new novel from a Paris hotel suite. In between tortured bouts at the laptop, he dallies and dances and beds a younger reporter (Olivia Wilde) who has open ambitions, few inhibitions and dark, sick secrets of her own.
In Italy, Adrien Brody is a well-dressed but shady businessman who seeks refuge in Bar Americano where almost no one speaks English and the beer is warm, but the woman (Moran Atias) a few seats away hot. He is drawn into an increasingly expensive, emotional drama involving the stranger and a child, even as he listens to a saved voice mail message from his 7-year-old daughter.
Starring: Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Adrien Brody, Mila Kunis.
Rating: R for language and some sexuality/nudity.
In New York, a woman (Ms. Kunis) at wit‘s end is desperately trying to get visitation rights for her young son. She lost them after an accident involving the boy, and she’s working with an increasingly exasperated lawyer portrayed by Maria Bello.
The boy, we learn, is living with his famous painter father (Mr. Franco), while she is an ex-soap opera actress whose friends have drifted away. They either think she‘s a child killer, or they’re sick of hearing her talk about the incident. “I just want to be invisible, and nobody looks at maids. I know I never did,” she says, accepting a uniform, a cart and the chance to earn some desperately needed money.
Mr. Haggis, who shared the best picture and original screenplay Oscars for “Crash,” drops hints along the way that only seem relevant once you reach the end. In the meantime, he uses the themes of water (a swimming pool, a phone unintentionally plopped into a pan of water, a watch immersed in a sink) and ghosts as through lines.
Like someone slowly unwrapping a present, he painstakingly delays the reveal of the entire picture. It can be maddening at times.
As with “The Next Three Days,” his intelligently crafted and filmed-in-Pittsburgh thriller, “Third Person” is too long. The Kunis-Franco slice keeps upping the anxiety ante, but some passages with Mr. Neeson and those in Italy start to seem repetitive.
However, Mr. Haggis has always had the ability to cast against type and draw some of the finest work from his cast, as with Sandra Bullock in “Crash,” Tommy Lee Jones in “In the Valley of Elah,” and Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks in “Next Three Days.”
And give the director-writer credit for being willing to create a character whose early work was stunning and brave and who lost his hold with each subsequent book. That‘s not the case here, but “Third Person,” a title with multiple meanings, is no “Million Dollar Baby,” which he adapted, or “Crash.”
Opens today at Cinemark at Pittsburgh Mills Mall in Fraser.
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