If a toddler tried to re-create the mystifying behavior of adults, it would look a lot like Paul Haggis's Third Person, a drama where grown-ups scream and cry and kiss for reasons that are confounding even to those who understand speech. The film follows a handful of couples, or really, kinda-sorta couples, who treat each other terribly, and then in the next scene are confused and stricken by their actions as though they're pawns under the thumb of a cruel chess master.
Which, of course, Haggis is. His Oscar–winning puzzle-piece epic, Crash, turned narrative coherence into a game that wasn't much fun to play. Here, we have a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist (Liam Neeson) typing away in Paris while torturing, and being tortured by, an unhinged reporter (Olivia Wilde) with ambitions of writing fiction and stealing him away from his wife (Kim Basinger). Meanwhile in Italy, a spy for copycat suit designers (Adrien Brody) gets tangled in a curvaceous Romanian prostitute's (Moran Atias) desperate attempt to buy back her daughter from a violent smuggler. Across the pond in New York, a soap-star-turned-hotel-maid (Mila Kunis) must prove to her ex-husband (James Franco) and her lawyer (Maria Bello) that she deserves to see her son despite that time a year ago he nearly died under her care.
The three plotlines fit together in a twist that isn’t so much an "aha!" as an "argh!" When the head-scratching impossibilities are more irritating than intriguing, does the last-second explanation outweigh the two hours we've spent rolling our eyes? Does it matter that you complete a Hail Mary pass if the crowd has already decamped to the parking lot?