In love and relationships, there is always a third person involved, as writer-director Paul Haggis makes known in his film Third Person.
With three seemingly disparate relationships, all seem to echo parallels with each other that are more familiar to us than we may think.
First off, the work of the actors and actresses in this film is something that needs to be applauded. Haggis truly tapped into each of his actors’ best elements, who all give their roles their most honest efforts.
Michael’s (Liam Neeson) story lies at the center of this film, as his struggles to develop a sincere novel seem to be of his own making. Having left his wife to hole himself up in his Parisian hotel room to write, he enlists the company of the compellingly deceitful yet desirable Anna (Olivia Wilde), who is driven by love and wants to get ahead in her career.
As we find that Michael “love[s] love. It’s people you don’t have time for,” (as his wife Elaine (Kim Basinger) makes known) we also find that Anna has demons of her own, conscious that she treats her relationships coldly and finds herself completely and smugly unlovable. Both have guilty and cold secrets in which I find draws them together. They frantically seek life and meaning and the things they’ve been missing, though they are both fueled on love, which is a message that runs throughout all relationships.
Wilde, as the slender and overwhelmingly neurotic beauty, really is the winner for me here. At one point, as Michael locks her out of his hotel room, she goes running through the hallways back to her room fully-nude, which is as charming and sweet as the moment permits. We get a glimpse of her utter innocence and almost childishness, jumping back into her bed laughing uncontrollably. And, we can’t help but laugh with her, no matter how messed up or conniving she may be.
Then comes Julia (Mila Kunis) who, out of desperation, decides to work as a hotel maid who is in a deep financial rut, barely able to taxi herself from place-to-place. As she struggles to regain custody of her six-year-old son because of her unforgiving and inadequate ex-husband/artist Rick (James Franco), she falls into a string of helplessly unfortunate incidents.
“She seems to be constantly put in situations where she’s just being attacked or accused of not being good enough,” Kunis states. Her performance is frantic and deeply emotional, where Rick’s girlfriend Sam (Loan Chabanol), who provides a rather intimate and compassionate connection to Julia, is reassuring.
Scott (Adrien Brody), as the suave and sorrow-eyed American businessman who steals Italian fashion-designs for a living, is both creepy and charming. Wandering into a bar in Rome, he becomes enthralled by a Romanian woman Monika (Moran Atias), in which he guiltlessly flirts with her with an almost innocent and boyish charm. As Scott becomes heavily involved with the woman, who is trying to buy her way back to her daughter, he becomes fearful of throwing his past life away, yet is fascinated by the new one he is creating for himself.
The strong performances and rather deeply-flawed character pieces are ultimately what make this film interesting to me.
“The drama develops into a thriller and a mystery where the three stories begin to intertwine,” Wilde states. “I found myself empathizing with everyone because everyone’s damaged here–men, women and children–but they’re all ultimately driven by love.”
As a sucker for character-driven pieces, as I oft wish to find characters that I can find a piece of myself in, Haggis really encourages one to look into oneself in this film. Anna’s story is especially dark and intriguing to watch, while Julia’s makes you want to cry out of the heaviness of emotions while watching the film.
We spend a majority of the 136-minutes figuring out and discovering the hidden flaws and insecurities of these characters and, as we see their narratives unfold, which ultimately seem to be deeply dark and reflective, they still point to one common theme.
“There’s a degree of the…processing of emotions and the need to overcome certain things that prevent us from moving forward and being present,” Brody notes. “I think film should celebrate flaws rather than create perfect people because people are imperfect.”
Overwhelmingly emotional, this film, having left my mind feeling utterly heavy for hours, leaves an imprint in the mind that, although makes for questionable plot turns, creates an uneasy yet comforting feeling that stays.
Side note: And, if I may shamelessly gush, Olivia Wilde possibly provides her most honest and compelling work here. As an avid fan of her work–and of her just mesmerizing, positive and smart personality–she allows herself to really go places here. And so does Mila Kunis. And that’s something that deserves to be noted here!
As Olivia has said at the TIFF, “I was scared to possibly tap into that [unlikable] part of myself. I knew Paul had written a beautiful script, it broke my heart. I read it and I so wanted to be a part of this … but I didn’t know if I could pull it off. But of course we’re supposed to do the things that scare us, and I’m so glad he didn’t let me bail, and I’m so glad it worked out because, when I watch the film I feel that it’s the best thing I’ve done and I feel very very proud.”
This movie was independently released in locations around the US last June 20, 2014. Ain’t it fun to normally find yourself sitting in a theater full of senior citizens?