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In the Valley of Blah

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Maria Malin/Sony Pictures Classics

MOVIE REVIEW
Third Person (2014)

Paul Haggis has again formulated an interwoven story with “Third Person,” this time finally resolving the contrivance inherent in the narrative device by having all interconnected vignettes conveniently taking place in one writer’s fertile imagination.

Liam Neeson stars as Michael, a Pulitzer-winning author who is carrying on a volatile affair with the seemingly bipolar society reporter (Olivia Wilde) — possibly all in his own mind. Meanwhile, he also concocts parallel narratives of an irresponsible mother (Mila Kunis) fighting for child visitation rights with her unforgiving ex (James Franco) and a swindling middleman (Adrien Brody) going out of his way to help a gypsy woman (Moran Atias) in Italy ransom her sister from a human smuggler. We eventually learn that all of these stories were products of Michael’s guilty conscience over personal tragedies.

Mr. Haggis has gotten a lot defter with this narrative device since “Crash” so that it doesn’t reek so much of pretension this time. Still, he has not yet mastered the art of nuance. His heavy-handedness peaks — spoiler alert — with the revelation that one character’s ebullitions stem from an incestuous relationship. As with “Crash,” the film nakedly attempts to conjure up emotions by resorting to crises that are anything but ordinary.

Mr. Haggis told a Tribeca Film Festival audience that the film is the closest thing to a confession. The question is if he realizes he more or less admitted to being a sociopath who remorselessly exploits the pain of those around him for the sake of drama.

THIRD PERSON

Opens on June 20 in New York and Los Angeles.

Written and directed by Paul Haggis; director of photography, Gian Filippo Corticelli; edited by Jo Francis; music by Dario Marianelli; production design by Laurence Bennett; costumes by Sonu Mishra; produced by Mr. Haggis, Paul Breuls and Michael Nozik; released by Sony Pictures Classics. Running time: 2 hours 17 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Liam Neeson (Michael), Olivia Wilde (Anna), Adrien Brody (Scott), Moran Atias (Monika), Mila Kunis (Julia), James Franco (Rick), Maria Bello (Theresa), Kim Basinger (Elaine), Loan Chabanol (Sam), David Harewood (Jake) and Oliver Crouch (Jesse).

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