Movie review: 'Third Person' drags out the obvious but still has its moments

MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICEJuly 11, 2014 

  • THIRD PERSON ** 1/2

    Rated: R for language and some sexuality/nudity. Starring: Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, Moran Atias. Director: Paul Haggis. Running time: 137 minutes. Theater: Flicks.

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.

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