Niagara Gazette — Lightning doesn’t strike twice for writer-director Paul Haggis with “Third Person,” a meandering melodrama that is structured exactly like his “Crash,” which undeservedly won the 2006 Academy Award for best picture over the much better “Brokeback Mountain.” Haggis again tries to juggle multiple storylines, but this time the plot threads unravel and nothing we see or hear is very engaging.
In “Third Person,” a number of uninteresting characters don’t quite cross paths, but they all seem to be wandering down the same thematic road involving relationships and memories of children.
This is a movie in which being able to cope with tragedy, loss, and marital failures is supposed to signify progress. Unfortunately, the film comes across as if Haggis removed pages from his own screenplay at various intervals to add drama and mystery. Everyone in his cast acts so low-key, in some cases lackadaisical, that moviegoers may end up inventing their own stories as their minds wander down the endless hotel corridors the characters populate.
Liam Neeson plays an American named Michael, an award-winning novelist who’s writing his new book while ensconced in a luxury Paris hotel. Olivia Wilde plays Anna. She’s also a writer and is Michael’s protege, lover, and the reason his marriage to Kim Basinger’s Elaine failed. Basinger will spend most of her time talking long-distance from the U.S. on the phone to Michael. She’s not very good, delivering her tiresome, faltering speech patterns with nonchalance passing as languor.
In Rome, Adrien Brody’s Scott is an underhanded American who sells stolen clothing designs. He’s mildly depressed because he doesn’t like Italy, a thematic element that makes no sense. Why go to Rome when Paris offers its own high couture to steal? And who the heck doesn’t like Rome? He’s stuck in a hotel, too.