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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
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 :
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.
*** 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.
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...
Third Person seeks to explore the betrayal of trustthe betrayal of
fidelity and friendship. Paul Haggis, the director, has made a career
out of making films that interweave numerous story lines. In this case,
Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Adrien Brody, Mila Kunis, and James Franco
all comprise a wonderful ensemble that demands a range of powerful
emotions to drive this story through its incessant melodrama (no
negative connotation applied). The narrative here focuses on the
romantic relationships and affairs that unfortunately still plague
society and humanity's untamable nature. I'm sure we all know the
implication of the film's title ("Third Person"), and with that, the
drama goes on an almost two-and-a-half-hour drive through tense
dialogue, flirtation, and sexy teases.
The movie teases and teases but never seems to reach the climax that its lengthy build-up continually suggests. Its first hour is fairly compelling in its set-up, deliberately introducing the audience to the exact predicament and its hapless participants. The plot over the rest of the film unravels quite cryptically, as well as in a manner that might appear heavily contrived to many viewers. There is a certain degree to which a suspension of belief should absolutely be mustered upon entering this picture. Aside from the contrivances, moments exist within that play to extreme dramatic effect but actually lead to a whole lot of nothing. After a great deal of meticulous development, a character screams and terrorizes a room out of realized anger as a tragic score plays to the segment's tune even though that scene essentially has no consequence in the sequences that follow (the character simply returns to a former state) as if the filmmaker was stylishly proceeding towards tragedy and quickly mopping up soon thereafter.
The actors themselves do a fantastic job and glue us to the screen albeit the script's occasional muddling of the conflict at hand. Adrien Brody, in my opinion, is the standout here, possessing a complex personality that battles between moral decisions and his wild desires. The writing in the first few scenes of his arcwe find him in a bar having a natural conversation with a mysterious woman (Moran Atias) as we immediately discern his dislike for foreign environments (particularly Italy) and his highly talkative, forceful nature. Olivia Wilde and Liam Neeson share the screen in probably the most compelling storyline where Neeson's strong infatuation for Wilde lends itself to perfidy and constant ridicule. Wilde's character plays a hard-to-get, but incredibly seductive, "sexpot" who tests Neeson's true loyalty to her while he starts to construct his next novel. Mila Kunis' part of the tale is definitely the least intriguing in its somewhat clichéd essence she's bouncing from job to job, barely able to pay her monthly bills and struggling to reclaim her kid who was taken from her based on accusations of abuse.
Like I said, all of these individual threads in an interlocking story initially engross, but then, Third Person starts to drag on and on. It sits at a runtime of 2 hours and 17 minutes but honestly feels like it's reaching the 3-hour mark. The connection between these separate stories begins to materialize the further we advance into the plot while also shadowing it with plenty of confusion at the same time. The last scene is a head-scratcher in a bad way. You're scratching your head because that "da dumb" twist moment unintentionally goes over everyone's head and falls flat in its execution. So, wait: how are they exactly connected thematically and emotionally? All I witnessed was a multitude of contrivances that saw these characters crossing each other's paths for a few seconds. Of course, there's a reason to all this once the very end comes to fruition, but the point of the entire ordeal sorely misses its mark. There's too much going on with the quick cutting intensifying as we progress, and none of the arcs conclude satisfyingly.
With that being said, I still respect Haggis' ambition and his ventures into such heart-rending tales. Contrary to general reception, I genuinely enjoyed Crash, and now, I most likely find myself enjoying Third Person more than most as well. It's primarily absorbing throughout, just a tad bit too long and woolly.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
=========== SPOILER ============
Quote: "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 )."
Hint: Adrien's son drowned in the pool, because the father (Adrien) took a call - telling his wife that it is a business call. Liam's son drowned in the pool, because his father (Liam) took a call - in fact it was a call from his mistress.
By such things imaginary stories linking with the real story of Liam, who has lost a child.
It is actually the contents of the book he writes, tormented by thoughts of guilt for the death of the child and how Liam wants to save his soul.
Regarding the "wrong placement of objects" - Liam wrote from Paris? NO! In the final scene the wife asks "How is Rome?" ... And during the chase it's looks like the streets of an Italian city, not Paris...
It is about the writer's imagination, attempt to justify, accepting the mistake, etc.
Actually the film is about the soul and mind of a man tormented by the death of his child because he was on the phone with his mistress and not supervised at the pool.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are, crudely, 3 stories in 3 cities (New York, Paris, Rome).
Within them, you have 4 kids (real or imagined, dead or alive), 2
tragic accidents that are almost identical, 2 situations of
well-intentioned but atrocious parenting, 2 obvious love stories, 3
couples estranged because of kids. I have probably missed a whole lot
more. Unfortunately, quantity does not necessarily quality make. Paul
Haggis seems to want to surpass "Crash", a bar set not too high because
that movie has been over-rated. But even for that mundane task, "Third
person" falls flat on its face. It is pretentious and manipulative,
like a cheap magic trick that can be seen through after a few glances.
The good things about this movie all belong to the distinguished cast. Members of this large ensemble have done their best with the material they have been given, shallow characters written with pretentious ambiguity that is hoped to impersonate depth.
Taking a refreshing break from nail-biting action, Liam Neeson displays his melancholy charm as a famed writer toiling in a hotel room in Paris, but seems to have lost his muse. Olivia Wilde plays the go-getter that slips in and out of the roles of muse, protégée and sex interest. Note I have not used the term "love interest" although love sort of comes into the picture towards the end, sort of. By the way, exquisitely lovely Wilde, in more ways than one, slips in and out of other things too, you'll be delighted to notice. Kim Basinger, at one time the most seductive object that appears on a sliver screen, plays his estranged wife with less than 5 minutes of screen time, all on the phone.
In Rome, Adrien Brody plays an industrial spy who has just successfully accomplished a job and, killing time in a bar, bumps into adventure unsought. This starts when in walks a mystifying Gypsy beauty played by Moran Artias. This is the one story that gets into the underworld.
In New York, Mila Kunis who served notice to the movie world in "Black Swan" as the aggressive young dancer (who threatened Natalie Portman into winning an Oscar), transforms amazingly into a world-wearied mother of a seven-year-old whom she is not allowed to see allergically due to child abuse. James Franco, playing the husband unyieldingly protecting their son, shows the darkest side of his screen persona you have yet seen. Maria Bello is the woman's lawyer for the case but has her own story too, through the most tangible interconnection in this movie later revealed. As a matter of fact, all the characters in this movie have their own stories other than those that meet the eye.
At the end of the day, however, despite some good acting, the movie is shallow, hollow and forever contriving.
This is an excellent human drama. Any of the negative reviews you see
about it are basically coming from a "dumbing down" stance. Like . .
(duh) WHY is this director trying to be so intellectooul?" It's a
damned clever piece of work, and we don't get that much any more in
this age of comic book movies.
It is also VERY moving, and finely acted. Watching Olivia Wilde's character, I kept thinking, wow such a "borderline" case, then we find out precisely WHY she's such.
You should go see this and bring your brain with you. Don't tell anyone else what it's about or what the spoilers are, and I'm not either.
"White" - the color of trust, and belief, and lies.
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