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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
++++++++++++++++Spoiler Alert+++++++++++++++++ Half the other reviewers
just didn't get it - this is a very good movie with a trick ending that
ties all story lines together wonderfully. Most of the negative reviews
were written by people that missed the entire point of the movie.
Without going into great detail on the three (really four) story lines
this is the hook: all the story lines are simply imagined by the author
character (Liam) as he composes his novel.
A prize-winning author is in Paris working on a novel, having just suffered through the death of his young son in a swimming pool accident. The movie starts and ends with him at his desk in a hotel room - the opening scene fades out with a faint "watch me" heard (imagined) by the author. The movie ends with the same scene, but now we know the "watch me" was uttered by his son just before he died in the swimming pool. We even meet his son at the end, the little boy sitting on the fountain. Everything from the opening scene to the ending scene all took place in the author's head as he sat in the hotel writing his novel. The story lines and their characters are simply the author rationalizing away his guilt for the death of his son. As he realizes that all his characters are manifestations, twisted sometimes, of his own psyche, he alters them, going so far as to entirely remove them from his novel. Thus we have the lawyer finally diving into the pool and disappearing, (as he removes her from the narrative) and slowly all the other characters just disappear, as he removes them from the book. Even his publisher is a figment of his imagination, a character created when he realized that his writing was becoming jaded, and far too close to his own life.
That's it. The key to understanding this movie is to realize that everything between the opening and closing scenes all took place in the author's head as he worked on his novel. As he came to terms with his son's death, the characters he drummed up disappeared, each created and played out as he worked to soothe his inner guilt. My two cents!
This is not the movie for everyone, but I loved it. The acting is
superb and the story is not your formula Hollywood blockbuster. It is a
unique and interesting story, that will hold your interest the entire
time, always unsure of the outcome.
The subject matter is a bleak but the characters are true and real. Kim Basinger after hearing something that would drive most women away, asks her husband to come home. Twists, turns, but in the end, it all makes sense.
Not the movie for just anyone. If you want a schlock Hollywood feel good movie, go see the delightful new Rob Reiner film 'And so it goes'
but as for me, this is head and shoulders over that.
Phooey to the bad reviews
Paul Haggis is best known as the director of the movie "Crash", which
was the controversial winner of the Oscar for Best Picture in 2006 over
its closest rival "Brokeback Mountain." Haggis is also the first
screenwriter to win Oscars for Writing for two consecutive years,
"Million Dollar Baby" in 2005 and "Crash" in 2006. It was the name of
Paul Haggis that drew me to check out "Third Person" without knowing
anything else about it.
Like "Crash", "Third Person" is also a film with multiple story lines. I have liked movies like this since I have seen "Amores Perros" and "21 Grams." I have admired how the scriptwriter managed to clearly tell three or four stories and then connect them to each other with an overarching bigger story.
Michael (Liam Neeson) is an aging Pulitzer-prize winning author who left his wife Elaine (Kim Basinger) and is now having an affair with a much younger Anna (Olivia Wilde) in Paris. Scott (Adrien Brody) is an unscrupulous clothing businessman who gets entangled with the shady financial problems of a gypsy-like local lady Monika (Moran Atias) in Rome. Julia (Mila Kunis) is a poor divorcée who lost custody of her young son to her estranged husband Rick (James Franco) because of an unfortunate accident with a plastic laundry bag.
It was good to see Liam Neeson again in a straight drama, not in another action vehicle that he is wont to do lately. Olivia Wilde is daring, gorgeous and smart, the perfect femme fatale. Mila Kunis stands out in a very serious dramatic role. Her brutally-emotional confrontation scene with James Franco was amazingly acted out. In terms of romantic chemistry though, the best was between Adrien Brody and Moran Atias. Their story line was interesting on its own, but seemed furthest off from any connection with the other two stories.
The underlying issue and conflict in all three stories was about trust. Anna's bizarre behavior is driving Michael nuts about her loyalty. On the other hand, Michael is using their stormy relationship as the subject of his book seemingly without Anna's consent. Monika's connection with a sleazy extortionist has Scott doubting her innocence. Rick cannot trust Julia anymore with even basic visitation rights to their son.
Even at the two hour mark, the three stories seem to be slowly losing their steam and getting nowhere without any detectable connection to each other. However, just as I was losing hope as to this film's ability to end properly, suddenly comes a most surprising development that actually manages to solidify the three disparate segments of this film into a single coherent whole. Paul Haggis has done it again to weave his magic with this inventive type of story telling via film.
Liam Neeson plays Michael, a writer. His eyes are curiously and
deceptively filled with feeling and warmth even as his character plays
out as a "sociopath" who has trouble feeling anything genuine toward
other people. Yet, he is obsessed with the creation of emotion, as if
the suspension of love in mid-air between two people is his home and
friend. His mind is similarly disembodied. He feels need for love,
especially when he is deprived of his lover's presence, but the actual
presence of that body works to quickly diffuse the passion that is
powerful in theory but thrives on it's staying in that theoretical
strata. Michael has found a way, through his writing, to cope with this
absurd existence. He finds the answer to his addiction in the creation
of fiction using people in real life. He lets life naturally play out
around him, provoking into being both the subtle and blatant forms of
passion, romanticism, divine emotion and drama, then filters these
experiences onto paper, choosing only the best parts, and throwing away
the rest. Including any irrelevant parts of himself. In this way, he
chooses to live his own life in a half-existence, desperately clinging
to the divinity of love while denying the bitter absence of his ability
to express it genuinely. 'Genuinely' is the key word here. Surely
delivering hundreds of white roses to the bedroom of his lover Anna,
(played by Olivia Wilde), is beyond romantic. But for Michael it is an
act of intellect, not passion. It is a tool used to evoke the necessary
catalyst, letting life display action, and funneling the magic into his
Anna is a woman and entity that is completely unique in relation to anyone else in the movie and expresses a shade of mentality that I've never seen in a film so clearly. Within the life spans of each character prior to the timeline of the film is a catastrophic event involving either children or themselves as children. This is a line of storytelling that is evenly and thoroughly paved, on which it is typically easy to carry an audience. Because of such and such event in one's childhood, this character turned out to be this and this. The audience willingly nods to almost any such explanation that follows this logic; the more messed up, the more believable. Anna's case certainly gives her some degree of excusability in this story, though that concept is for another time and another debate. Incredibly, this event, though strong and controversial, does not outshine the vivid expression of her mentality through her actions prior to the unveiling of this childhood/adulthood disaster. She is blunt, cold and incredibly sadistic when it comes to attacking Michael. She is spontaneous, child-like and in considerable anguish. She is excited by the same game that Michael is, and this is what holds them together through the poisonous collisions with the sterility of every-day life. There game is fun, sexy. The fact that in their spontaneous role-play they are acutely aware of the other's true mentality builds a mutual sexual excitement; they can't wait to see how the story will turn out this time, whether it leaves Anna naked in the hallway of a hotel, or hundreds of flowers left in her empty room. The plain of existence could go on exponentially from here in satisfaction for Michael, but for Anna there is a step further down that makes her existence with Michael inhospitable. She is aware and ashamed of her acidic behavior towards Michael, and she has settled into a resolution of consistent punishment for those actions; at least she is trying very hard to. Michael makes this wish impossible in his equally consistent forgiveness for the sake of not losing his muse. As a result, Anna is catapulted into despair as she does not receive the intake of pain and rebuke she expects, resolute that she in no way deserves forgiveness or love; both of which she has long since destroyed within herself. Confronted with a room full of roses, she is helpless to respond in any way other than crawling, slowly and humbly, back to her indestructible lover...
When I received an invite to go to the screening of Third Person, I was
a bit uncertain whether this would be a decent flick or not. I hadn't
seen any trailers or read articles about it so I did not know what to
Third person is a film from Paul Haggis ( the director of the Oscar- winning "Crash") involving intertwining stories featuring Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Adrien Brody, Mila Kunis, James Franco, Maria Bello, Moran Atlas and Kim Basinger.
Having not seen Crash, I hadn't raised my expectations to spectacular levels. Maybe this is why Third Person is getting a mediocre score, people simply compare it with Crash and not as an individual movie.
Let me begin by stating that the atmospheric feel of the movie is top notch. Whether it is the chic, extravagant life-style in Paris, the beautiful and not-so beautiful side of Rome or the busy streets in New York, every city is portrayed in a beautiful way. The soundtrack is okay and fits with the mood of the scenes.
The acting is , how could it not be with this cast, top-notch ! Especially Mila Kunis surprised me with her emotionally depth, a side of her that we don't see a lot in her movies.
Of course, with different intertwining stories, people will argue which one is the best of the bundle. Let me make this clear : Each story is very intriguing and has plot twists that I did not see coming. You could feel everyone staring with great surprise at the screen when major twists came.
For me, the best story was the part with Adrien Brody and Moran Atlas. They had the best chemistry in the movie, with a very interesting dilemma. It had the funniest and most-thrilling moments ( according to me of course, the others are very well made as well, this is truly a matter of personal taste ).
But the movie has a big flaw. The link between the stories is rather weak ( I still have no idea how Adrien's story was linked with the rest of them, when this movie releases for all audiences someone will maybe find that link ). The wrap-around at the end was very, very confusing and didn't make a lot of sense. It was surprising , yes, but really no- one understood what the ending meant for the story. But I think that if this movie gets analyzed and someone clearly explains it's ending, my appreciation for this movie would certainly be of the roof.
I'm not the type of guy who volunteers to watch a romantic drama, I even dread the thought of watching another chick-flick/tear-buster with the girlfriend. But this drama pulled me into it's story with fantastic performances from an awesome cast, good writing/directing for each storyline and a fine balance between drama, romance and humor.
And for that great achievement, this movie deserves :
*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***
Paul Haggis has a heavy burden after winning Best Picture at the Oscars with "Crash," as high expectations have soon formulated any time he creates an interwoven story. Third Person, with its stellar cast and beautiful scenery, amplifies the hype, but unlike its predecessor, it doesn't deliver.
Third Person tells three love stories, featuring unrelatable caricatures. Liam Neeson is a Pulitzer-prize winner author, who smokes cigarettes in darkness and slams his Macbook when ideas don't seamlessly flow to him (people do that?). Olivia Wilde is a charming though emotionally-detached single-in-the-city gal. Adrian Brody is an American in Rome who detests the culture yet thrives in stealing. James Franco is artist-son of wealthy New Yorkers really? The characters often lack chemistry and their development often seems forced to fill the 'love du jour' trend of love-then-fighting-then love again. The performances are uninspiring, with the exception of Mila Kunis, who plays an ex-soap opera star and single mother trying to get her life back together.
Haggis spent many years crafting this film, but he had to verbally inform the audience of many of the interwoven intricacies. The film will appeal to the New York liberal intellectual crowd who thrive on 'complex' characters, but ultimately, this movie is all sizzle, no steak.
After the TIFF movie premiere, Haggis candidly stated that for the film he had difficulty attaining financing until the last minute. Perhaps this was an omen.
'THIRD PERSON': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)
Paul Haggis wrote and directed this dark drama flick about three interlocking love stories; reminiscent to the storytelling style he used in the award winning 2005 film 'CRASH'. The stories revolve around a writer and his mistress, a mother who was accused of abusing her child and an American who falls for a Romanian woman, while taking a business trip in Italy. The all-star cast includes Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, Olivia Wilde, James Franco, Moran Atias, Loan Chabanol, Maria Bello and Kim Basinger. I found the story to be a little too dark and underdeveloped but still interesting enough.
Neeson plays Michael, a writer who lives in Paris and recently left his wife, Elaine (Basinger), for another woman, named Anna (Wilde). Kunis plays Julia, a mother in New York who was recently accused of trying to kill her son. Franco plays her ex, Rick, who is trying to keep custody of their child away from Julia (due to the accusation). Brody plays Scott, an American businessman traveling in Italy who falls for a Romanian beauty, named Monika (Atias). Monika's daughter was kidnapped by a Russian gangster, named Marco (Riccardo Scamarcio), and Scott tries to help Monika get her back.
The stories all deal with a common theme of children and poor parenting (in some way). They don't all really intersect (some do briefly) but there is a nice twist at the end that helps explain why they're all related. A lot of the details of the film, and the ending, are very vague and some of the characters are pretty underdeveloped. It's definitely not nearly as well made as 'CRASH', or some of Haggis's other movies, but it is interesting and entertaining (especially for a film that's 2 hours and 17 minutes long). The performances are all decent and Chabanol and Atias are both breathtaking to watch. It's a flawed movie but still a good one.
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
. . . they CRASH together in writer\director Paul Haggis' latest stab at the ensemble movie format perfected by writer\director Robert Altman with SHORT CUTS more than 20 years ago. Putting most of the action of THIRD PERSON inside the tortured confines of Liam Neeson's Pulitzer-Prize-winning character's mind is not necessarily a wise choice. "Pirandelloism" (the dichotomy between illusion and reality) is all old as the hills, and Luigi cornered the market on it in a Roman setting. It may impress someone who has seen fewer than 50 flicks in their life as "clever," but that demographic is more apt to be watching LEGO films than 137-minute story-within-a-story yarns. Perhaps most of the retirees at my showing of THIRD PERSON just wanted a comfortable seat in which to doze off for the afternoon (the theater is air-conditioned, unlike many of their homes). If Mr. Haggis thinks these people have the short-term memory capacity to match his movie's watery "watch me" opening line with the explanatory "pay off" exposition more than two hours later, he's probably as out-of-touch with reality as his THIRD PERSON novelist character.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw "Third Person", starring Liam Neeson-the Taken movies, with a
third one in the works, Gangs of New York; Olivia Wilde-House
M.D._t.v., Year One; Adrien Brody-Predators, King Kong_2005, Moran
Atias-The Next Three Days, Crash; Mila Kunis-Oz the Great and Powerful,
Date Night and James Franco-Oz the Great and Powerful, Date Night.
This is a movie about three different but connected stories. The first is about Liam, a writer, that is having an affair with Olivia, while writing his next book in Paris. The second is about Adrian, a business man in Rome that crosses paths with a local, Moran, and tries to help her. And the third is about Mila in New York, trying to get custody of her son from her former husband, James. The movie is written and directed by Paul Haggis, who directed The Next Three Days, In the Valley of Elah and Crash. Paul wrote The Next Three Days, Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale. Oh Yeah, he also wrote a few t.v. shows, including creating Walker, Texas Ranger. As you can see, good talent in front of the cameras and behind them. The only problem is that there are some confusing details. Now I don't know if it was some kind of artsy thing that was done on purpose-maybe I'm just ignorant-but little things like a note being dropped in a hotel in New York is picked up by a character in Paris-and later, it appears back with the character in New York. The same thing happens when flowers that are given to a character in Paris shows up with someone else in New York. Like I said, maybe it's just my lack of comprehension, but it was a little confusing. It's rated "R" for language and sexual content-including nudity-and has a running time of 2 hours & 17 minutes. Although it was a little confusing, I liked it, but not enough to buy it on DVD. It would be a better rental.
I had to see this because Paul Haggis made it. After writing several
excellent scripts (Million Dollar Baby, In the Valley of Elah, Letters
from Iwo Jima and Crash), how could I not take this one in.
However, after seeing Third Person tonight, I can't say that I left feeling inspired as usual. Instead, the complexity of it left me perplexed and not sure what it all meant. So, I've decided to just keep an open mind, consider it awhile and maybe see it again later on video. Perhaps it will jell for me at some point. So, take note that the "5 rating" really only reflects my current state of flummox.
Mr. Haggis said in a recent interview that the answer tying the film together is right there on the screen. Based on his past record, I can only assume it is. It just sure ain't obvious!
As an aside: a previous, interesting review by "nikubo" on this website based a large part of his conclusions on Liam Neeson's character mourning his son's death. However, if I remember correctly, it was the character played by Adrien Brody whose son died, not Liam Neeson's. Otherwise, nikuto's take is pretty unique, although I'm not sure I totally buy it.
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