Third Person

Directed By: Paul Haggis

Starring: Liam Neeson, Milan Kunis, Adrien Brody, Olivia Wilde, James Franco, Moran Atias, Maria Bello, and Kim Basinger

It's not too often that we get Paul Haggis sitting in the director's chair.  After all, it's been four years since The Next Three Days and seven since In the Valley of Elah.  He spends far more time writing movies like Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, though he hasn't been particularly active on this front in the last several years either.  Having seen his latest cinematic endeavor Third Person, I can't say that I've missed him.

In Paris, Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael (Liam Neeson), who recently left his wife Elaine (Kim Basinger), battles his personal demons and tries to write his next big work.  Meanwhile, he looks to take his longtime on-and-off relationship with his former mistress and lover Anna (Olivia Wilde) to the next level.  In Rome, American businessman Sean (Adrien Brody) realizes just how much he hates Italy but also just how much he loves an Italian woman by the name of Monica (Moran Atias).  Meeting at a "Bar Americano", the two talk over drinks.  Determined to see her again after their chance encounter at the bar, Sean involves himself in Monica's ordeal involving a gangster and her daughter.  In New York, Julia (Mila Kunis) has been accused of attempting to murder her son with laundry bags.  Despite the attempts of her lawyer Theresa (Maria Bello), Julia's ex-boyfriend Rick (James Franco) makes it certain that she won't be seeing her son again anytime soon.

Paul Haggis has a certain proclivity to write and direct ensemble flicks that weave some semblance of interconnectedness amongst the characters.  In the case of Third Person, the tie that binds his characters is that they're all haunted by some tragedy involving harms done to their children.  The problem with storylines connected in more ways than one across geographies and time is that the narrative often feels forced and less than substantive.  That's definitely the case here.  As Haggis tries to appeal to a certain movie-going demographic, he fails to recognize the smart viewership he has on his hands, one that can see through all his stylistic flourishes and his film's razor-thin plot  For instance, there's a certain scene that ripples throughout one of the character's storylines that somehow takes place in both Paris and New York.  Moviegoer's are intelligent enough to notice this terrible attempt at a metaphor.  Moreover, Third Person is a superficial romantic thriller masquerading as an artsy, high-brow film.

The acting in Third Person isn't anything to go shouting home about either.  Despite a robust cast that includes the likes of Liam Neeson, Adrien Brody, Olivia Wilde, and James Franco, this group doesn't get the job done.  Their performances are self-indulgent and lack cohesiveness.  They're trying to shine on screen rather than contribute to a larger picture.  The one cast member who does stand out is Mila Kunis.  As the down on her luck New Yorker Julia, Kunis delivers a potent, emotional performance as a loving, committed mother who can't see her son.

Third Person is far from my favorite movie, and I'm sure that this is the case for many who've seen the film.  Toward the end of the movie, Michael writes that white is the color of trust, the color of belief, and the color of the lies he tells himself.  I have to say that this obvious metaphor is undoubtedly true.  This flick is the color of the lie that it's smartly entertaining.  Third Person gets a 0.09% rating.  Have a few limoncellos with this one.