Things haven’t exactly gone swimmingly for Paul Haggis since he won that contentious Best Picture Oscar for “Crash” nearly eight years ago. Clint Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima” nabbed him another writing nod a year later, and a pair of new-model Bond films kept him ticking over, but on the directorial side of things, it’s been a case of diminishing returns. Only a surprise Best Actor nomination for Tommy Lee Jones kept “In the Valley of Elah” from sinking without trace, while the Russell Crowe-starring thriller “The Next Three Days” was pretty unmemorable pulp. Reviews out of Toronto for his latest, “Third Person,” didn’t exactly suggest the slide had been reversed.
“A work of staggering trash,” claimed The Guardian’s Catherine Shoard of the ensemble romantic drama, which intercuts three separate love stories set in Paris, Rome and New York. (It all sounds uncomfortably like “360” to me — a film I keep thinking Haggis actually made.) The Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young was a tad more kind, declaring its multi-stranded narrative “vividly dramatized but uninvolving.” It found some fans, but was swiftly buried by buzzier fare at Toronto, despite an all-star cast including James Franco, Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Kim Basinger, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody and Maria Bello. When a film with that cast and a name director sits unclaimed by a distributor for nearly two months after Toronto, it’s a sign that it’s a challenge of some sort — though Sony Pictures Classics has now come to the rescue.
It was announced today that the specialist outfit has picked up the film for release in the US, plus Germany and Scandinavia — no release date is mentioned, though I assume it’ll be an early 2014 deal. Sony Classics issued this statement: “Paul Haggis is one of our great movie storytellers and ‘Third Person’ is one of his best works featuring an exceptional cast led by Liam Neeson (also at his best). We are excited to bring ‘Third Person’ to American audiences.”
For his part, Haggis added, “Michael [Barker] and Tom [Bernard] have great instincts and all the right experience releasing smart, challenging films — I’m thrilled Third Person found a home at Sony Pictures Classics.” This is the first time he’s worked with Sony Classics; Lionsgate were the company behind “Crash” and “The Next Three Days.”
Are you optimistic for Paul Haggis’ latest? Perhaps you’ve already seen it? Tell us in the comments.