With “Third Person,” writer-director Paul Haggis (“Crash”) exposes his creative demons in the most tedious and pretentious way possible.
Haggis’ allegorical substitute is Michael (Liam Neeson), a one-time Pulitzer-winning novelist whose more recent work hasn’t matched his early brilliance. Michael, we learn, has left his wife, Elaine (Kim Basinger), for a Parisian rendezvous with Anna (Olivia Wilde), a young society reporter.
Two other stories interlock with this one: An American businessman (Adrien Brody) in Rome gets caught up with a beauty, Monika (Moran Atias), who may be a con artist; and in New York, recovering addict Julia (Mila Kunis), aided by her lawyer (Maria Bello), is fighting her artist ex, Rick (James Franco), over visitation rights for their son, Jesse (Oliver Crouch).
What the stories have in common are issues of trust, and adults feeling guilt over putting children in peril. What they also have in common is that Haggis’ characters are too sketchy, and the situations too artificially paralleled, to be authentic. His self-important dialogue does the cast no favors, and only Wilde manages to break free with a performance that has any fire.
Haggis has much to say, through Michael, about the difficulties of creating characters — but he would be better served if he stopped whining and created engaging characters in an interesting story.
Opens today at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity; 137 minutes.