Director: Paul Haggis
Cast: Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Mila Kunis, James Franco, Adrien Brody, Maria Bello, Moran Atias, Kim Basinger
RunTime: 2 hrs 17 mins
Rating: M18 (Mature Theme)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 24 July 2014
Synopsis: MICHAEL (Liam Neeson) is a Pulitzer Prize winning author who has holed himself up in a hotel suite in Paris to finish his latest book. He recently left his wife, ELAINE (Kim Basinger), and is having a tempestuous affair with an ambitious young writer, ANNA (Olivia Wilde) who has her own agenda. At the same time, SCOTT (Adrien Brody), a shady American businessman, is in Italy to steal designs from fashion houses. Hating everything Italian, Scott is in search of something decent to eat when he meets MONIKA (Moran Atias), a breathtakingly beautiful gypsy, who is about to be reunited with her young daughter. When the money she has saved to pay her daughter’s smuggler is stolen, Scott feels compelled to help. They take off together for a dangerous town in Southern Italy, where Scott starts to suspect that he is the patsy in an elaborate con game. JULIA (Mila Kunis), an ex-soap opera actress, is caught in a custody battle for her 6 year-old son with her ex-husband RICK (James Franco), a famous New York artist. With her support cut off and her legal costs ruinous, Julia is reduced to working as a maid in the same upscale boutique hotel where she was once a frequent guest. Julia’s lawyer THERESA (Maria Bello) has secured Julia one final chance to change the court’s mind and be reunited with the child she loves. THIRD PERSON tells three stories of love, passion, trust and betrayal, reminiscent of Paul Haggis’s earlier Oscar winning film “Crash”. The tales play out in New York, Paris and Rome - three couples who appear to have nothing in common and only tangential connections. But there is always a third person in any relationship -- perhaps not romantically, perhaps you aren't even aware of their existence, but they are there. At its heart, Third Person is much more than a collection of love stories -- it is a mystery; a puzzle in which truth is revealed in glimpses, and clues are caught by the corner of your eye -- and nothing is truly what it seems.
Not everyone was impressed when Canadian filmmaker’s Crash (2004) took home the biggest prize of the 78th Academy Awards. The Best Picture winner wasn’t as well regarded as Ang Lee’s BrokebackMountain. But hey, back in 2006, were you expecting a movie about gay cowboys to win? Haggis is also the screenwriter of the film. In fact, he is better known for his writing credits which include Million Dollar Baby (2004), Flags of Our Fathers (2006), Letters from Iwo Jima(2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008). He takes on the director role in his latest work, and has a stellar cast at his disposal.
The movie interweaves three love stories which take place in Paris, New Yorkand Rome. In Paris, a writer leaves his wife, receives a visit from his lover and explores some terrible secrets between the three people. In New York, a woman is charged with attempting to kill her son. The boy is in the custody of his father who tries to take the boy from his mother – to which we ask: who’s the innocent party in this drama? In Rome, an American businessman falls in love with a Romanian woman and gets involved in a kidnapping case. Is this a setup, or a genuine case of a dangerous romantic relationship?
This trio of stories definitely echoes his style in Crash, but it is much less compelling this time round.: much more stylish, yes, but style and interlocking stories do not make these tales worth telling. Utilising surprisingly intimate dialogue and bizarre coincidences, Haggis (who is the screenwriter) twists and turns these seemingly disconnected stories until they eventually intersect, but the banal payoff simply isn’t worth the wait. And some of the details don’t ever make sense. One supposes that the connective thematic element is how a “third person” is often interjected into a love relationship, requiring the pivotal condition of trust, but Haggis’ execution of this concept is confusing.
The exceptional cast, all of it likely drawn to the project by the opportunity to work with Haggis, does impressive work. Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Mila Kunis, James Franc, Adrien Brody, Mario Bello, Moran Atias and Kim Basinger are familiar names who have delivered exceptional performances, and the fact that they share a substantial number of Oscar nominations and wins amongst them is a testimonial to the acting chops of this capable cast.
However, with so many characters moving through three stories, things can get complicated: Who’s who? Who’s doing what to whom? And why? Everyone in the film is struggling with guilt, a difficult quest or both. As the 137 minute film struggles to find a three pronged ending, accelerating ambiguity and hazy magical realism further obscure the already opaque stories.
We’ve heard some unkind things about this movie, saying how it is a waste of time and the actors’ talents, dissing it for a gimmicky premise and a contrived attempt at repeating Crash’s success. But as most films go, it’s more constructive to approach the movie with an open mind. You may not like it after walking out of the theatre, but is definitely warrants a lively discussion.
(Whether you’d be impressed by the complicated storyline is one thing, the movie’s competent performances from its stellar cast is worth your buck)
Review by John Li