Adrien Brody stars as man who may be caught in a scam run by Moran Atias in 'Third Person.' (Maria Marin)
There’s a sense of despair, of something broken beyond repair, in the intricate “Third Person,” written and directed by Paul Haggis, writer-director of the Oscar-winning “Crash.”
As with “Crash,” Haggis is telling separate stories that ultimately interlock. The binding concern here is family tragedy, mostly built around parent and child, but specifics are withheld for much of the film. It’s just obvious something is off with these people.
One story involves Michael (Liam Neeson), a respected writer working on a book in a Paris hotel when his mistress, Anna (Olivia Wilde), comes to visit and torment him.
Another finds a hotel maid, Julia (Mila Kunis), in New York City trying to win visitation rights to see her son, who lives with his famous painter father (James Franco). We don’t know what Julia has done for a long time, but things don’t look good.
And then there’s the film’s most far-fetched but, in ways, its most enticing story. Adrien Brody plays Scott, a fellow in Rome who steals fashion designs and sells them to knock-off clothiers. While brooding in a bar one day, he meets a beautiful Roma woman named Monika (Moran Atias) and gets caught up in what may or may not be a scam involving her missing daughter.
There’s a lot of acting talent here — Maria Bello and Kim Basinger are also part of the larger puzzle — and even if the story begins to melt into itself, at the end it’s still fascinating to watch Haggis move his players.
The biggest surprise is Wilde, too easily written off as an exotic beauty (although she’s certainly that). Here she’s alluring, fun, frightened, cocky, emotionally gutted and furiously in love, the range of the film itself.
Rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity
Running time: 137 minutes