Those of us who’d like to see Hollywood move beyond its reliance on sequels, reboots, and stories familiar from television and comic books would do well to recognize mainstream films daring enough to draw outside the lines, even when they’re not particularly successful.
Writer/director Paul Haggis — known best for 2004’s Crash, possibly the least-admired Best Picture Oscar-winner of this era — spent years writing and rewriting Third Person before lifting a camera, and there’s no question about the scale of his ambition or his desire to create something new. Like Crash, Third Person intertwines multiple stories of troubled people in apparent hopes of making a grand statement on the human condition, or at least one about the deeply flawed relationships between parents and children. But it all adds up to less than the sum of its considerable parts. There are moments of real insight and passion, courtesy of a strong ensemble cast that includes James Franco, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, Liam Neeson, Kim Basinger, and Olivia Wilde. The three stories intersect in small ways before melting together to the point where three locations — New York, Paris and Rome — begin to merge. But we never really know why. Third Person is an art film that falls a little short on the art. As failures go, it’s an entrancing one.
Third Person is now screening at the Elmwood Palace Theater. More info here.