Paul Haggis’ Third Person, three international stories woven into one grief-themed tale with a twist, has given feminist Hollywood cause for despair. If you thought we might be making progress in the respectful portrayal of women in cinema, this film will slap the taste from of your mouth, make you lick it back up, and tell you to call it ‘daddy’. Frankly, it’s offensive here why…
Young beautiful women with men double their age
Anna (Olivia Wilde – 30), is having an affair with Michael (Liam Neeson – 62), in a posh Parisian hotel. She’s a beautiful aspiring writer with the sass of a bag of fizzy Haribo. Michael’s rich, cocksure, a Pulitzer prize-winning author and clearly old enough to be her father – something that’s completely plausible and unfetishised. Anna provides the sexual satisfaction patch to replace Michael’s wife Elaine (Kim Basinger – 60), who is heard via hushed phone calls but rarely actually seen.
Scott (Adrien Brody – 41), is an oily character who dribbles over Romanian gypsy Gina, (Katy Louise Saunders – 29). Scott, who casually eyeballs Gina like a car-caged dog gazing out the window, rescues her when she needs to buy back her daughter after she was trafficked.
Sure, it’s not unheard of – age ain’t nothing but a number etc… but switch the genders around, and typical to Hollywood, Anna and Gina would be ‘milfs’ or ‘cougars’ and satisfy a curious fling rather than a long-term significant.
Can you say ‘Trinity Syndrome’?
Over-sexualisation aside, Anna, Gina and hapless chambermaid Julia (Mila Kunis), begin as women with strength and determination yet are soon denounced to desperate and useless without these cold, rich and preposterously pretentious men.
Julia is the dishevelled job-juggling single mother in New York who was once with pouty abstract artist Rick (James Franco). She’s trying to make a buck whilst struggling to reach her appointment with what turns out to be with her lawyer in order to keep her son. But any working mum camaraderie is soon simmered when she’s later painted to be the victim of her own crime…
Vixenesque Gina appears to be able to cut anyone down to size with one slicing side-eye, but despite continually wafting Scott away like an angry wasp, she eventually caves to his lecherous persistence. In probably one of the many wince-worthy lines (more on those later), Scott stands up for Gina – after she’s mistaken for a prostitute – and says ‘I’ll show you what an American does when you disrespect his wife’. Gina melts at his heroism and soon slides what little clothes she had on, off.
As for Anna, she’s driven and uses her sizzling sexuality like a golden carrot to dangle at her donkey of a secret manfriend. But this ‘strong female character’ troupe is violently buckarooed when her arsenal of USPs only serve to shackle her sugar daddy.
Blame the women. It’s always the women…
The theme between these three tales are tragedy, parenting and grief, yet it’s at the fault of the females who are guilty of their sins of greed or lust. Michael’s preoccupation with his younger woman has caused a catastrophe, one that a good christian would struggle to forgive. However on the acknowledgement of his ultimate wrongdoing and his affair, his-heard-and-not-seen wife exerts as much rage as a fart and yet she still begs him to come home.
Meanwhile Julia is punished for having an affair along with an unfortunate incident involving her son. Once a promising actress, she’s now making beds for rich folk in a five-star hotel (file under ‘message!’). As comeuppance she’s legally banned from her child while her successful artist ex plays finger paints and happy families with his doe-eyed new woman.
If you sign up for an American Pie movie you can at least strap into a carriage of expectation, but when it’s coughed up in a film that suggests it has a more creative approach, you can’t help but feel dirty. It’s a bit like being flashed by your sophisticated aunt. Gina’s heaving bosom and Anna’s naked hotel room hop are like something nicked from a Benny Hill movie and is as tacky as tinsel.
Third Person is an 137-minute endurance test and a festival of misogyny. It’s no more than a duck faced over-instagramed selfie subliminally confessing Haggis’ anxieties with women. Sensationalist? No – Haggis breezily admits in an interview with The Daily Beast that Third Person was a cathartic exercise after an affair he had with an ‘impossible woman’. Enough said.
The shiny cast, Haggis’ Oscar-winning credentials and the artistic marketing imagery inflate a bubble of high expectation for the film but it’s all dressed up with no where to go. It has the undelivered promise of a gold-plated engagement ring and the insufferable cheek of a politician in a cheap suit. The continual bloat of unearned triumph only stokes this furnace of arrogance. Besides, is there anything more annoying than talking in third person? It’s pretense at it’s ultimate.
On the face of it the thread in this trio of tales is grief, parenting and loss, but the only thing to really mourn here is female perspective. To polish off the absurdities, there’s a very special place for lines like these:
“Women have the incredible gift of being able to deny any reality”
“White — it’s the colour of trust; it’s the colour of belief.”
Anna: “Don’t you wanna have sex?”
Michael: “No. But thanks for asking”
Anna: “You know that made me wet, right?”
Michael: “Unfortunately yes”.
Third Person is out now. But it shouldn’t be.
(Trinity Syndrome as outlined by The Dissolve)