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 Third Person (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 136 minutes.

Not for children.

Writer/director Paul Haggis is the master of the convoluted, multi-situational film that resulted in the 2005 Oscar for Crash. He’s at it again here where he casts Liam Neeson as a writer of fiction, estranged from his wife, Kim Basinger, while carrying on with his girlfriend, Olivia Wilde. Then there’s Adrien Brody, a shady businessman who gets involved in a sort of kidnapping with sexy Moran Atias. Finally, Mila Kunis has had her son with James Franco taken away from her and is desperate to get visitation rights with him, so she hires Maria Bello as her attorney. Maria just happens to be Brody’s estranged wife. Convoluted enough?

Set in New York, Paris, and Rome, Haggis jumps back and forth among the three stories. Haggis and his longtime production designer used Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 avant-garde film, Blow up, as a touchstone in how to make this film, because both are an exposition of the relationship of reality to illusion. The finale is exceptionally thought-provoking, intriguing viewers who have not been lost by the almost two and a half hour runtime.

As to the acting, Kunis is head and shoulders among the others, although that’s not to downplay the cast, all of whom give fine performances. This film shows Kunis with the capability to shed tears on cue, and Wilde without it. But Olivia makes up for it when she sheds her clothes rather than tears, and runs naked through her hotel in Paris (which she laughingly says she thinks she should do on all her pictures because “It’s a real ice breaker with the crew in the first week. Once you do that nothing else is intimidating.”).

As an aside, although the film is set in New York, Paris, and Rome, it was shot entirely in Rome. The Paris exteriors were shot on the Via Veneto, Rome’s most famous tourist street.