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'Third Person' Ambitiously Interlocks Three Stories But Falls Short

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Third Person

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Third Person seeks to explore the betrayal of trust—the 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 arc—we 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.

Guest Reviewer

Film Muscle

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