Review: Third Person
PLOT: Three couples (Liam Neeson & Olivia Wilde, Mila Kunis & James Franco, Adrien Brody & Moran Atias) in three different cities (Paris, New York and Rome) deal with the various intrigues of falling in and out of love.
REVIEW: It happens every year. While the Toronto Film Festival is renowned for its incredible selection of stunning films with this year being no exception every year a film sneaks in that's so bad you wonder how it ever made the cut. Movies like PASSION PLAY, TWIXT, BUTTER, TRESPASS and now THIRD PERSON.
Granted, Paul Haggis is a controversial figure. While I'm inclined to agree with the people that thought his best picture win for CRASH was an unbelievably poor choice by the academy, it was not a film that I hated. The same cannot be said for his follow-up, IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH which tried so hard to be thought-provoking, that it shot itself in the foot in its final act. But at least that film was two-thirds of a decent movie. This one never, ever threatens to be anything other than a complete and utter piece of crap.
For one thing, none of the three stories Paul Haggis tells are remotely interesting. The one that comes the closest is the one with Mila Kunis, who plays a mother that's lost custody of her son to James Franco after she endangered his life. Despite being a wildly unsympathetic, even dangerous character, we're supposed to be moved by her plight, even though it's suggested that she tried to suffocate the kid at some point. And this is the best part of the film...
The lamest part sees Adrien Brody as guy in Rome who makes a living ripping off Italian designs for his cut-rate company. He falls for a Romanian beauty (Maran Atias) who's (maybe) trying to get her daughter back from a dangerous criminal. This story seems to be trying for a mix of suspense and romance with us never being sure whether or not Atias is playing Brody, but you'll never for one second care whether she is or not. Part of the trouble is Brody, who, in the wrong kind of role is grating. This is the wrong kind of role. The other problem is that just like all the other stories, the characters are cardboard, and the plot is stale.
But the worst part of THIRD PERSON, the part that takes this movie from being merely bad into positively atrocious is the Neeson-Wilde segment. First of all, the prospect of watching sixty-one-year-old Liam Neeson in a romance with twenty-eight-year-old Olivia Wilde is not terribly appealing. Actually, it's pretty gross, especially with the two of them having several love scenes that are supposed to be torrid but seem icky. Here, Haggis throws two twists into the story that are just stunning. The first one is absolutely disgusting, and rather than induce gasps in the audience should induce vomiting, while the second feels like something leftover from THE WORDS (coincidentally another Wilde vehicle).
Without telling you the two twists, I can't possibly convey how truly awful THIRD PERSON is, but suffice to say, the only way this could be enjoyed is as an unintentional comedy, were it not so boring. Someone at the fest said that Haggis was heading into M. Night Shyamalan territory with his recent run of movies, but THIRD PERSON is so bad that seems like a disservice to Shyamalan.
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