Taglines: Life can change at the turn of a page.
Michael (Liam Neeson) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction author who has recently left his wife, Elaine (Kim Basinger), and is having a tempestuous affair with Anna (Olivia Wilde), an ambitious young journalist who wants to write and publish fiction.
At the same time, Scott (Adrien Brody), a shady American businessman, is in Italy to steal designs from fashion houses. He meets Monika (Moran Atias), a beautiful Roma woman, 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. Rick’s current girlfriend Sam (Loan Chabanol) is a compassionate onlooker.
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 the eye — and nothing is truly what it seems.
Third Person is a romantic thriller film directed and written by Paul Haggis and co-starring Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, Olivia Wilde, James Franco, Moran Atias, Kim Basinger, and Maria Bello. The film premiered at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival.
Review for Third Person
aul Haggis’s new movie, “Third Person,” Anna (Olivia Wilde), a go-getting New York journalist, is having an affair with Michael (Liam Neeson), a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist in a funk. In a darkened room in a posh Paris hotel, he tries, with diminishing confidence, to finish writing a book. He flies Anna over, and they taunt each other, make love, play complicated erotic games. They’ve been carrying on this way for two years—fighting keeps the affair alive. Neeson, now sixty-two, is recognizably stalwart—tough-tender and imposing—and it’s a pleasure to see him acting with a woman after so many fantasy characters and man-alone genre movies. The revelation is Wilde.
A slender beauty with high cheekbones, she makes Anna a full-fledged neurotic, candid and demanding and changeable, shifting abruptly from snuggling happiness to angry defiance. At one point, after Michael locks a naked Anna out of his hotel room, she races down the hallway to her own room and falls into bed laughing. Wilde’s Anna seems to have no center, but that’s the point. She’s harboring guilty secrets, as is Michael, and Haggis’s insight in this movie is that guilt doesn’t make people sodden or reclusive. On the contrary, it makes them frantically alive, seeking to grab something they’ve missed.
There are six main characters in “Third Person,” all of whom are just as surprising as Anna and just as messed up. Haggis tells three stories, set in Paris, Rome, and New York, about different kinds of love, and his unifying theme is that a “third person”—a child, an old lover—lingers in the background of every serious relationship. He intercuts the stories, as he did in “Crash” (2004), but this time the characters don’t impinge on one another—at least, not until the end, when he changes our relation to everything we’ve seen.
As we discover, four of the six have failed as parents, sometimes with disastrous results, but “Third Person” is hardly an accusation. Haggis shapes the stories as complicated adventures undertaken by damaged people whose unhappiness compels them to take risks. Much of the dialogue is prickly and intimate—so intimate that, at times, one has the impression that Haggis is unloading personal obsessions into his narratives, as Bergman and Fellini did.
Adrien Brody, whom I have found languid and uninteresting in the past, provides a second revelation. He uses his hollow bemusement and hangdog recessiveness to create an effective portrait of a man in a rut: Scott, a self-disgusted businessman who steals designs from Italian fashion houses in order to make cheap knockoffs in sweatshops. Scott wanders into an American bar in Rome and, in a lengthy scene, which Haggis builds slowly, becomes enthralled by a beautiful and comically hot-tempered woman from Romania, Monika (Moran Atias), who seems to have escaped from a Rome Opera production of “Carmen.” She is carrying five thousand euros in cash to redeem her daughter from smugglers who are holding the girl in a boat.
The story doesn’t quite make sense, especially as Monika rushes out of the bar, leaving the money behind. But Scott is roused from his self-absorption by the woman’s crazy vivacity, and he tries to help her out. Is he being conned? He doesn’t much care: Monika is funny and street-smart in ways that he could never be. Brody, energized now, enters into Scott’s passion with the mixed fascination and fear of a man who may be throwing his life away but is happy to be doing something decisive at last.
The tale dominated by Mila Kunis, as Julia, a rattled New Yorker, lacks the exuberant spirit of the other two. Julia is one of those infuriating people who can’t pull themselves together, no matter how high the stakes. Broke, disorganized, always late, she has lost custody of her little boy, whom she longs for; a year earlier, she may have hurt the child. Her ex-husband, a famous artist (James Franco, uncharacteristically fierce), has had her cut off financially and her visitation rights blocked. Kunis, scrambling through the city, gives the ultimate in desperate, bottom-dog performances—those saucer eyes never stop pleading. Haggis treats this screwup with great sympathy, recounting her cascading dilemmas in sorrowful detail. Life in the world Haggis creates is marked by bizarre coincidences, missed opportunities, and terrible luck. Living it isn’t easy for anyone.
Directed by: Paul Haggis
Starring: Olivia Wilde, Caroline Goodall, James Franco, Maria Bello, Moran Atias, Mila Kunis, Adam Brody, David Harewood, Liam Neeson, Kim Basinger
Screenplay by: Paul Haggis
Cinematography by: Gianfilippo Corticelli
Film Editing by: Jo Francis
Costume Design by: Sonoo Mishra
Set Decoration by: Raffaella Giovannetti
Art Direction by: Dimitri Capuani, Luca Tranchino
Music by: Dario Marianelli
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexuality / nudity.
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Release Date: June 20, 2014