First Hit: Three intellectually and emotionally charged stories that become one in the end.
Liam Neeson plays Michael a successful Pulitzer Prize writer in Paris trying to write another book.
Flash - we’re in another story where we have Scott (Adrien Brody) making a deal to purchase stolen clothing designs – he’s a thief. Julia (Mila Kunis) is a young woman charged with intentionally harming her child. Although it wasn’t proven in court she cannot see her child.
Each story starts and is grown from here. In Michaels’ case he has a wife Elaine (Kim Basinger) who calls him from their home in the US and is worried about his welfare. There is pain in their voices when they speak. He also has a lover – Anna (Olivia Wilde) who is both loving and heartlessly mean. Scott hates being in Italy, goes to an “American” bar expecting something like home and doesn’t find it.
He meets Monika (Moran Atlas) at the bar and ends up getting mixed up with her trying to get back her daughter from some street thugs. Then there is Julia’s story of trying to see her son who is living with a famous artist Rick (James Franco) and his live-in lover Sam (Loan Chabanol). She is being defended by Theresa (Maria Bello) who really tries to help Julia see her son but Julia keeps getting in her own way.
As each story evolves the screenwriter slowly brings them together as a singularity. The film is long and at times, I wondered when it would end - and I also was staying engaged.
Neeson’s story is the focal point of the entire film as it begins and ends with him. My perception is that his character creates feelings about things for himself, through the creation of characters in the stories he writes about. His performance was strong. Kunis was amazing as a young woman who tries hard to do the right thing but gets in her own way almost all the time. Brody was divine, in the way he worked through the trials of his life. Wilde was very strong as a heartless woman who wanted to really be loved and cared about while learning to trust. Chabanol was very good and her scene with Kunis in the women’s restroom was very good. Franco was OK as the distant creative artist. Atlas was sublime as the Roma woman trying to get her child back. Her movement between hard and openly soft was amazing. Bello as Kunis’ attorney was very good and her franticness were perfect for the part. Basinger was very good as Neeson’s wife who holds his struggles with equanimity. Paul Haggis wrote and directed this film. He likes complex stories which require the audience to work to understand as well as touching on sensitive subjects – he does this in this film as well. Overall, it boarded on overly complex and trite.
Overall: I was touched by the acting in this film.