I know that Paul Haggis is a director that not many people like, but I had enjoyed all of his previous films, and especially was a fan of his most recent one, The Next Three Days. So perhaps my expectations were much higher than the average audience member since I am a defender of his work both as a director and a writer. I know that a lot of people were mixed on the Academy Award winning Crash which surprised everyone when it took the award over Brokeback Mountain, and despite agreeing with most critics that it wasn't one of the best films of the year I still enjoyed it and thought it was a strong directorial debut. He followed his debut with In the Valley of Elah, another engaging film with a powerful performance from Tommy Lee Jones (one that was overlooked considering he was also outstanding that year in No Country for Old Men). So before Third Person everything that Haggis was a part of really caught my attention. As a writer he is credited for the screenplay of such successful films as Casino Royale, Million Dollar Baby, and Letters from Iwo Jima. So when I look back at his filmography I kind of don't understand the hate he receives because there are far more worse directors out there. So I am still going to defend Haggis despite the fact that he has made what is in my opinion his first bad film. His first mistake for this project was trying to repeat the success of Crash by telling a multi strand storyline where characters backgrounds seem to overlap each other. The premise is pretty interesting and gripping at first considering the talented cast involved, but the revelation near the end of the film kind of ruins the entire experience as you can't help but feel Haggis was selling out at the end. The film has several silly revelations that don't seem to work, but what truly hurts this film is the fact that you have a lead character who is basically spelling out the revelations for the audience in case they have missed them. There was no need for this and it only makes you feel as if Haggis doesn't have faith in you to understand what he is trying to say through the themes of the film. He should give the audience more credit and let the story reveal itself without using a character to spell out everything for us. Third Person had a strong start but simply failed to connect the characters in a better way and keep the audience engaged with the premise. Third Person is the first film from Haggis that simply didn't work for me.
What Third Person does have going for it is the strong cast involved. It was a breath of fresh air to see Liam Neeson back in a dramatic role after having seen him in so many action films as of recent (although I do enjoy him as an action star as well). He plays an award winning writer who is working on his next novel and in a way he resembles Haggis himself. He has left his wife (played by Kim Basinger) and is having an affair with a much younger woman named Anna (Olivia Wilde). Olivia Wilde gives a solid performance and despite being a flawed character you believe why these two are together. There are several revelations along the way that don't work too well, but the actors give it their best. The other story involves a character played by Adrien Brody who falls for a mysterious woman in a restaurant in Paris. This story was perhaps the weakest in the film although the audience is always second guessing the intentions of these characters. The third story involves a separated couple played by James Franco and Mila Kunis. Kunis is not allowed to see her son and is trying to find a legal way to get visitation rights, while Franco plays a successful painter who doesn't know how to connect with his child. Kunis gives a strong dramatic performance and she stood out for me. Despite the different story lines there is something they share in common which is revealed over time. These characters are all flawed and are hiding some sort of secret, but in a way they are searching for redemption through each new relationship. The final revelation near the end was the main reason why I was disappointed by the film, and I believe the film's strength relies heavily on the audience's reaction to this reveal. It didn't work for me and that is why my recommendation would be not to "watch me."