Like his Oscar-winning “Crash,” Paul Haggis’ “Third Person” is made up of interwoven stories, at first seeming to have little to do with each other. A successful author (Liam Neeson) meets his journalist mistress (Olivia Wilde) in a Paris hotel room. An American businessman (Adrien Brody) in Italy encounters a mysterious, beautiful woman (Moran Atias) who may or may not be scamming him. A hotel maid (Mila Kunis) in New York struggles with her ex (James Franco) to gain custody of their young son, who was endangered in an accident that she may or may not have caused.
Eventually, the stories connect, both thematically (love triangles, lost children, a symbolic “third person” in each subplot) and directly via a sort of magic realism in which physical objects get passed from one story to the next. And it’s all, I’m sorry to say, a melodramatic slog.
A few of the performances have some pep — Brody and his eyebrows are amusingly low-rent (this businessman is the sort you don’t want to hold up to sunlight), and Kunis finds something touching in the doe-eyed misery she’s required to project — but most of “Third Person” feels pretentious and contrived. Neeson’s character Michael, for example, intones that he’s writing a novel “about a man who can only feel through the characters he creates” — and guess what kind of character Michael is? On “Third Person” goes, hitting its characters (and its audience) with a hammer. The hotel rooms are pretty; otherwise, there’s not much to take away.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org