9 October 2014 | gradyharp
Paul Haggis both wrote and directed this very long movie (137 minutes) that plays with our minds in a way not dissimilar to his most famous similar film CRASH. The quilted story takes patience and close attention to paste each of the three running stories together – three (at times augmented) couples whose lives are altered in some way by a child – drowning, abusive by placing in a plastic bag, a conveniently imagined child – and it all ties together with slips of paper, pages of novels, paintings and other threads spread around Paris, Rome, and New York.
'Michael (Liam Neeson) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction author who has sequestered himself in a hotel suite in Paris to finish his latest book. He recently left his wife, Elaine (Kim Basinger), and is having a tempestuous affair with Anna (Olivia Wilde), an ambitious young journalist who wants to write and publish fiction. At the same time, Scott (Adrien Brody), a shady American 'clothing designer' businessman, is in Italy to steal designs from fashion houses. Hating everything Italian, Scott wanders into the Café American with barkeep Marco (Riccardo Scamarcio) in search of something familiar to eat. There, he meets Monika (Moran Atias), a beautiful Romanian woman, who is about to be reunited with her young daughter. When the money she has saved to pay her daughter's smuggler Carlo (Viinico Marchioni) has stolen, Scott feels compelled to help. They take off together for a dangerous town in Southern Italy, where Scott starts to suspect that he is the patsy in an elaborate con game. Julia (Mila Kunis), an ex-soap opera actress, is caught in a custody battle for her 6 year-old son with her ex-husband Rick (James Franco), a famous New York artist. With her support cut off and her legal costs ruinous, Julia is reduced to working as a maid in the same upscale boutique hotel where she was once a frequent guest. Julia's lawyer Theresa (Maria Bello) has secured Julia one final chance to change the court's mind and be reunited with the child she loves. Rick's current girlfriend Sam (Loan Chabanol) is a compassionate onlooker.'
With a cast such as this the film works as well as it can with such obtuse twists and turns involving each of the three couples. The film 'feels' like it wants to be wonderful, but it just plods along too slowly to make us care very much about this odd groups of maladjusted misfits.