The Paul Haggis drama "Third Person" is, like his Oscar-winning "Crash," a series of interlocking stories. Like "Crash," the conceit that ties those tales together is a bit obvious. And like "Crash," it rambles on and on, unable or unwilling to develop an exit strategy. His all-star cast has to get its money's worth, even at the expense of the audience's patience.
Liam Neeson is Michael, a married writer visiting Paris as a cure for writer's block, trying to carry on an affair with a would-be novelist, Anna (Olivia Wilde). When he gets the call from the front desk announcing she's shown up, he puts us on our guard. "Does she appear to be armed?"
Wilde is cast on-the-nose as a scary-sexy, insulting and mercurial careerist possibly using this "old man" to further her aims.
Meanwhile, Michael is fielding calls from a sad, knowing wife (Oscar winner Kim Basinger) back home.
In Rome, Oscar winner Adrien Brody is shady Sean, a fashion espionage agent (he steals designs) and an ugly American - the sort of arrogant jerk who doesn't fall for Italy's charms.
By chance, he runs into a beautiful Gypsy (Moran Atias) and becomes tangled up in her melodrama.
Mila Kunis is Julia, a broke New Yorker whose life has been wrecked by an accusation of child neglect/abuse. Maria Bello is her irritated lawyer, the one whose appointments Julia keeps missing. James Franco, an artist who paints without a brush and who lives with a stunning Frenchwoman (Loan Chabanal), is mixed up in it.
With a generous whittling down Haggis might have had something special, from sad story to giddy one with a sad edge, a hustle with pathos and romance intercut with the consequences of infidelity. But "Third Person," despite its rewards, wears out its welcome long before the third act is through.