Film Reviews

THIRD PERSON

By • Jun 10th, 2014 •

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Never have I seen a more polarized mixed bag.

Paul Haggis’ multi-drama, a form he favors both theatrically and on TV, continues to intrigue him. And here we have three bitter romantic stories which portend to be intertwined, but that finally isn’t what’s good and bad about the film – the revelation which the title suggests is more of a Hitchcock McGuffin than a vital component of the experience.

Liam Neeson duels with Olivia Wilde, in and out of bed, for the duration. They’re both excellent. Their dialogue is good, but better than their lines are their nuanced performances. I completely believed in their doomed relationship, but here is a perfect example of what dichotomizes all the performances and relationships in the movie: beautifully drawn as they are, the characters are also almost relentlessly unsympathetic. In real life, I wouldn’t want to know any of them. I’d cut a wide swathe within moments of a first meeting. That goes for Neeson, Wilde, Adrian Brody (his best work since THE PIANIST, but…), Maria Bello, Kim Basinger, James Franco, and Mila Kunis. They’re all terrific, but it’s unpleasantly painful to endure their angst with them.

The narratives take place in New York City, Paris, and Rome. Mise en scene is another of the film’s striking virtues. The landscapes are waiting to be embraced, and Gianfilippo Corticelli’s cinematography captures them rapturously. I have nothing negative or dismissive to say about Jo Francis’ editing, Laurence Bennett’s production Design, or Dario Marianelli’s music. The gruesomely glum story elements are encased in beautiful visual and aural artistry. And I’m a fan of Haggis’s, so I appreciate that he’s experimenting with a style that he’s explored before and feels comfortable with and challenged by. But with all that, it’s still not a fun experience, and I leave it to you to decide if you’re up for it.

This may seem like a strange aside. I’ve always admired Olivia Wilde’s work. She first knocked me out with TRON, in a role that could have been much less fulfilling That film really ends with her, not Jeff Bridges, and it’s on her shoulders to leave us with an upbeat, romantic feeling, and she absolutely pulled it off. In this film she pulls something else off – all her clothes. She’s obviously comfortable in the altogether,and it’s a well-motivated scene, both funny and quite painful, and she does it justice. But in its own way, it’s one more mark on the plus side if one is weighing whether to catch THIRD PERSON or not.

And finally, those of you who check out FIR’s end of the year ‘Best’ lists know that mine include a number of categories that are less often considered. Best locations. Best makeup. Best moments. Best title sequences. Of course the usual bests and worsts are also included.

One of my yearly lists is Worst Titles. For instance, last year, some of the worst titles were CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, SAVING MR. BANKS, and RUSH. I believe those films would have performed better had their titles been more attractive.

This year, THIRD PERSON is such a title. It doesn’t do anything for the film, not is it intriguing to a potential viewer. I wish they’d have changed it to something more compelling.

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