Sunday, June 8, 2014

Paul Haggis' 'Third Person' Is Confusing, But Good

By Darlene Donloe

If you really want to know what’s happening in Paul Haggis’ latest film, Third Person, you really need to pay attention. Really! 

It’s a bit confusing. But, it’s also a heady, well written, film with stellar performances.

The film’s premise goes something like this. Three couples in three cities find love and heartbreak in three interlocking stories. A married writer (Liam Neeson) and his mistress (Olivia Wilde) have a volatile relationship in Paris, a corporate thief (Adrien Brody) meets a beautiful gypsy woman (Moran Atlas) in Rome and a failed soap star (Mila Kunis) wages a custody battle for the son she, allegedly, endangered in New York.

The three stories tell different aspects of the author’s  consciousness.

The film, which opens June 20 in Los Angeles and New York, is from the man who brought us Crash.  Those stories were also intertwined. 

All of the relationships in the film are complex - incredibly complex.  All three of these relationships would send a normal human being running for the hills. Not only are they intricate – each is painful and rings with authenticity.

The story featuring Neeson and Wilde is multi-layered. Neeson plays a Pulitzer-winning novelist struggling to write a sincere, self-conscious work about Love, which he hopes will be another literary hit. Neeson has some wonderful moments in the film, especially when he types the words onto the page that he just spoke to either his mistress or his wife and vice versa.  Is it art imitating life or…..    Both actors deliver exceptional acting – especially Wilde.  The storyline takes an amazing turn toward the end. Eerily, throughout the story, Michael (Neeson) hears two head-turning little words – ‘Watch Me.’

The story featuring Brody and Atias is probably the most entertaining. It’s different. It makes you go, ‘what?’  Atias is brilliant!

The third story features Kunis and James Franco, who plays her ex-husband who is hell-bent on keeping Kunis’ character away from their son. Kunis plays a woman who is unable to see her son because she, allegedly, endangered his life. Kunis delivers a heart-wrenching scene.  Mario Bello plays Kunis’ attorney. Although her role isn’t huge, Bello delivers.

Third Person is smart.  It’s a roller-coaster ride –no doubt. Not all of the pieces are tied up in a nice, little bow. The audience has to decide some things on its own – which works for this thorny presentation.  The payoff at the end is not clearly defined, so it’s, essentially, what you make it!

Third Person is written and directed by Paul Haggis, produced by Haggis, Paul Breuls and Michael Nozik and stars Liam Neeson, Mario Bello, Mila Kunis, Kim Basinger, Adrien Brody, Olivia Wilde, James Franco, Loan Chabanol, Oliver Crouch and Moran Atias.

Third Person is Rated R; Running time: 137 minutes. 

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent), Third Person gets an L-O (Likeable-OK).

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