Michael (Liam Neeson, Taken) is a selfish, Pulitzer-prize winning writer who is in a bit of a funk when it comes to his current book project. In addition to navigating the waters of divorce with his wife Elaine (Kim Basinger), he is also juggling his abusive protégé/mistress Anna (Olivia Wilde, Tron) and seeking inspiration while writing in Paris. Michael and Anna have a strange relationship, one that is very playful but also quite wishy-washy. It is clear the pair love each other, yet they constantly push each other away. Michael's golden days of writing seem long gone as he just can't seem to recapture the raw honesty from his earlier books, but maybe he is writing about the wrong things.
Meanwhile in Rome, Scott (Adrien Brody), a fashion design thief, finds himself stranded in the city for an additional day and meets a beguiling gypsy named Monika (Moran Atias) who finds herself in a dangerous situation. It seems her child is essentially being held by human traffickers unless she can come up with an enormous amount of money to get her back. Scott, no stranger to tragedy in his own right, finds himself torn between the possibility that he is being taken for a fool and that Monika truly is a damsel in distress. Could redemption for past sins be just around the corner?
Finally, in New York, Julia (Mila Kunis) is a former soap opera star with a checkered past who is fighting a brutal custody battle, and no matter how hard she tries, she just keeps screwing up. She's broke, she's always late and seems to have the worst luck, and her attorney, Theresa (Maria Bello) has had just about enough of her antics. Rick (James Franco) is a famous painter, but he just can't seem to connect with his young son, and while his girlfriend Sam (Loan Chabonal) is supportive, she finds herself questioning his recent actions.
Each story plays out in parts, yet also seamlessly flows into the other cities where characters' lives are taking shape. Some scenes are confusing, intentionally so, as there seems to be a lack of cohesion and continuity, but everything happens for a reason. I will say that I am the type to figure out a plotline really early on, whether it be a book or a movie, but Third Person kept me strung along until the very end, when the pieces locked into place with a bang. The clues are all there, if you are paying attention, and the payoff is great, making the viewer want to watch the film again just to pick up on all of the nuances. In fact, I highly recommend you do so, listening to the commentary. Normally, I am not a fan of commentary, but I re-watched the film and listened and it was quite enlightening and enjoyable. Likewise, there is also a making-of featurette and a Q&A with Paul Haggis, both of which are also excellent.
Third Person is not for everyone, but it is a brilliant drama. The actors are all fantastic and hats off especially to Olivia Wilde and Mila Kunis for their fearlessness in their roles. It is not often you get to see a beautiful actress in a role where they allow themselves to look either frumpy and disheveled as was the case with Kunis, or completely ashen and destroyed at times as in the case of Wilde, but both actors pulled off their roles with grace and panache. I hate to compare it to Crash because Third Person is a completely different animal, but if you enjoy a film that makes you think and completely bewilders you, only to pull it all together in grand fashion, check out Third Person. It's a really well-written and acted drama.